The Confucius Institute Online is taking China Expat’s content. That’s right, the Beijing-based institute with millions of dollars of resouces has been taking articles from ChinaExpat.com, an upstart website with no revenue dedicated to promoting Chinese culture and tourism. They have been taking original writing [update: the Institute resolved the problem on July 12th] in its entirety and passing it off as their own original content. In total more than four dozen (!) of our articles appear on their site and I could only find one time that they gave us credit. Just in case they try to eliminate the evidence we have taken numerous screen-shots and posted a sampling of them at the bottom of the article. This screen shot shows a page on their site that lists articles, every one of which [appears to be] stolen from China Expat. There are 20 (!) listed on this one page alone:
(Continue below screenshot) [update: July 11th's entry tracks the progress with the Institute]
(Click on image for larger view)
Here is the mission statement from Confucius Institute Online’s site:
Confucius Institute Online is the online headquarters of all Confucius Institute centers [in the world]. The site is administered by the Office of Chinese language Council International under the Hanban program. Our website is dedicated to providing Chinese language learning resources for both teachers and students, as well as to the promotion, and greater understanding of Chinese culture.
It is the last six words that are particularly sad since there is a wide perception in the world that China cares little about intellectual property rights (IPR). At a time when the country is making progress toward fixing the problem it is especially shameful that an organization making millions of dollars of year would seemingly choose to steal from a Hong-Kong based website that is only looking to promote China.
Our articles discuss lesser known regions of China and provide the expat community resources to make their lives here easier. Meanwhile a multi-million dollar school that overcharges its students and has ‘learning’ centers in dozens of countries cannot be bothered creating their own original articles, or even contacting us to ask for permission to reprint. The ‘school’ has gaudy marble statues and rich owners but cannot waste time sending an email asking if they can use other organizations’ articles.
[Update July 12th: The Confucius Institute has removed the content, and also contacted us expressing remorse both by email and phone.]
This situation unfortunately represents a mentality that some corners of Chinese society have found hard to shake. China first began its journey to the WTO in 1986, but was repeatedly rebuffed for its lax IPR enforcement. Six years after gaining entrance the country is clearly still struggling to catch up with its new elite position in the world.
The brazenness with which the institute chose to duplicate China Expat’s content is striking. In one week in June they appear to have stolen more than 50 pages of content from our website without a single article from a different source posted. Among those that they have taken were pieces about Uyghur musicians, our restaurant guides, and even a blog entry that I wrote[update: this blog entry is the only article that linked to us. However they did not receive permission to reproduce it]. Against my better judgment I am including a link to the site [update: the articles have since been removed and an apology was issued] since so that you can see the absurdity of it.
They seemed to especially take from us, but other English publications were not exempt from this [action]. In an ironic twist they saw fit to steal a 2006 article from the Beijing Review on piracy in China. The author’s name is included (presumably because it was part of the text) but not the source. Here’s the original.
As an institute whose very name conjures up images of the bedrock philosophy upon which Chinese culture is founded, this is a blatant and embarrassing indiscretion. The Confucius Institute Online should represent the proud tradition of an ancient civilization, not the sordid underbelly of modern China. This is not simply a naïve university student plagiarizing paragraphs from a famous writer. Instead it is a major [organization] taking advantage of an up and coming website trying to promote a foreign culture.
If China wants to shed its image as the wild-west of IPR, where stealing other people’s work is commonplace, it needs to shape up. Chinese often say that it is okay to buy copyrighted DVDs for 6 yuan because people here are poor and Hollywood is full of rich Americans. What can they say now that rich Chinese are taking from poor foreigners?
Below are some the webshots as evidence: [Update: I have sent an email to the contact address on the Confucius Institute Online they responded a few days later and I have posted their response.We have accepted their apology and believe they responded appropriately.]
(click to enlarge)
Above is the “borrowed” content. Below is the original.
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