Game producers in battle against counterfeits

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Game producers in battle against counterfeits

The game industry is Korea’s leader in entertainment exports. Games constitute more than half of the content exported, with 3.3 trillion won ($2.9 billion) in sales. However, the star player is having trouble in China, the world’s biggest mobile game market.

The Chinese market is full of pirates who prey on Korean games by stealing their ideas. Plagiarism is a major obstacle for Korean industries, but copyright infringement is rampant in China.

Tree of Savior (TOS), for example, has Chinese copycats. Developed by IMC Games in Korea in December, the online game allows multiple people to simultaneously venture through a virtual world devastated by monstrous plants and trees in search of a savior goddess. TOS was set to enter the Chinese market until The Tale of Lost City, a mobile imitation of TOS, received more than 210,000 downloads in China’s Apple app store. The counterfeit imitated almost all of TOS’s characters and game styles, and placed 21st in sales. “Game illustrations and the digitalized graphic sources are the core intellectual property to a game, but they stole it,” said Nexon, the national publisher for TOS, “we are planning to take legal action.”

Plagiarizing by Chinese game producers has been lurking in the shadows since the advent of online games. The problems worsened with the advent of mobile games, however. Because a game’s popularity usually lasts less than six months, it’s easy for a pirate to steal a game’s intellectual property and make a quick profit, then stop supplying game services when faced with complaints. Also, there are realistic obstacles for small companies in monitoring the Chinese market where hundreds of new games are released monthly. Even if the culprit is identified, it’s hard to get verification from the courts since the company would already have aborted the game.

“China’s mobile game development technologies have already exceeded Korea, and as they’re added to our high-quality intellectual property, the impact on our part is severe,” said Kim Seong-gon, chief officer of the Korea Internet Digital Entertainment Association.

Last month, Netmarble Games, a Korean game distributor, sued the developer and local publisher of “Menghuanshiqi,” an imitation of Netmarble’s Stone Age released in June. Netmarble is suing for discontinuance on copyright infringement and damages. “There are numerous other games that have copied Stone Age including the one we’re filing against, and so we thought it was crucial to take action early on,” said Netmarble.

The industry expects active participation by the government. Lee Dong-seop, a member of parliament, has put forward a revised act on the promotion of the game industry which enables the minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism to cooperate with the related organization to deal with the plagiarism of Korean games.

The Chinese government has also recently been fortifying protective measures on intellectual property rights of digital content. In 2013, Pati Games successfully pressured the Chinese app store and the pirate company to remove the imitation of I Love Coffee.

“The Chinese government has begun enhanced monitoring over copyright infringement on smartphone applications and internet productions from July,” said Koo Tae-eon, chief lawyer at Tek & Law firm. “Should the supervision have a successful start, then the management of copyright issues will run much more smoothly than before.”


BY PARK SU-RYON [ebusiness@joongang.co.kr]

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