Younger generations in China are now developing a stronger copyright consciousness

By Li Lin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/10 5:03:40

A fan of Gintama cosplays Gintoki Sakata at a comicon in Beijing. Photo: IC

If one asks what Zhang Ya's most anticipated movie is this year, he would say Gintama. Adapted from the Japanese manga by the same name, the movie starring Shun Oguri debuted in China on September 1. Zhang has been a fan of Gintama animation and manga since 2010.

Zhang went to the cinema the day it came out and watched the movie. Along with him were many of his friends, who are also crazy fans of Gintama.

"Since I learned that Gintama would be introduced to China, I decided to see it in a cinema. I hope the author Hideaki Sorachi can feel his Chinese fans' enthusiasm and support through the box office earnings," said the 32-year-old software engineer.

During the first week the movie was on, Zhang found all of his friends had gone to see it. They posted photos of their movie tickets and the posters on their WeChat Moments.

"I found that no one I knew was asking for the pirated version online, like torrents or sneak previews, which was common a few years ago," he said. "Many of my friends even went to the cinema twice or three times to show their support, which I think would make Sorachi very happy."

In seven days, Gintama's box office earnings reached 73.7 million yuan ($11.3 million). According to a September 4 report by news portal, two more Japanese animation movies will be released in China in September - The Shape of Voice and Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale.

According to Wang Qian, a member of the Copyright Society of China and a professor on copyright in East China University of Political Science and Law, younger generations in China have developed an increasing awareness of what copyright is.

Kagura played by Kanna Hashimoto (left) and Shinpachi Shimura played by Masaki Suda in the Gintama movie. Photo: IC


Awareness grows with age

According to the report, Gintama is on over 12,000 screens in 8,000 cinemas in China, while in Japan it is only showing on 3,400 screens. Fans formed cosplay groups and went to the cinema, and many of them watched it repeatedly.

Besides the box office earnings, recently, Gintama anime products have been gaining popularity. A online shop owner selling Gintama related products, nicknamed "Toshi," told Metropolitan that recently many customers order original garage kits. He now lives in Tokyo and goes shopping once a week to fill the orders he receives on Taobao. Original garage kits and manga books are the most popular. He increases the price by 10 to 15 percent and earns the price difference.

"I have a job and I only did this as a favor for my friends in the Chinese mainland years ago, but more and more people come to me for original Japanese manga products, so I opened an online shop," he said.

"I think young people in their 20s and 30s are willing to pay for these products because they have deep feelings for manga, are economically independent and are well educated and know the importance of protecting copyrights."

The garage kits he sells are expensive, most of which are more than 1,000 yuan.

"I remember that a woman in her 30s paid me over 5,000 yuan for a limited-edition version of a Sailor Moon music box set, which is very rare even in Japan," he said. "In China, there are illegal factories producing similar products and some even have better craftsmanship than the originals, which were produced in the 1990s, but the woman insisted on buying the original."

Zhang said most young Chinese gain their copyright awareness gradually while growing up. When he was in primary school, he did not know what copyright was and the products like manga books, video game discs and music tapes were all pirated copies. After he entered junior high school, he wanted to buy original products because they are of good quality and it would make him look cool among his classmates.

"However, when I entered university, I became an ACG fan (animation, comics and games), and I began to know the importance of supporting legal versions of cultural products," he said. "Supporting legal versions can provide consumers a better experience. If we support original manga and animation, the authors and producers will be more motivated to create new work and improve the quality; if we support original games, we can get better services like better image quality, more convenient downloads and quicker updates and bug repair."

Zhang said he paid for many video sharing websites like Youku, Iqiyi and Sohu's memberships to watch animation and TV series.

"Although I can watch a legal copy of Gintama on Youku, I paid for the membership," he said. "I think fans hope that there will never be a day when Gintama ends, so what we should do is to support and pay for legal versions instead of shouting slogans while buying pirate products."

Gintoki Sakata played by Shun Oguri (right) fights Nizou Okada played by Hirofumi Arai in the Gintama movie. Photo: IC

ACG group willing to pay

According to a report released in 2016 by iResearch, a provider of online audience measurements and consumer insights in China, ACG fans are very willing to pay for products and the average amount of money they spent on ACG products is 1,700 yuan. Most of the money is invested in original garage kits, watching and buying manga and animation and buying video games. The report also revealed that in 2016, ACG fans in China reached 230 million and in 2017, the number will be over 300 million. Over 97 percent of them are born in the 1990s and 2000s.

Wang said there's no doubt that the copyright awareness among young people is increasing rapidly because China's economy is developing quickly, and people are better educated. China is now the second largest economy in the world, and people have been able to make more money and invest in cultural products, and the copyright awareness has increased naturally.

He said another reason young people to have a stronger copyright awareness is that they can experience the importance of copyright protection in their daily lives.

"For example, more and more young people have started their own businesses and they have many ideas, and a good atmosphere of respecting copyright is good for everyone who creates," he said.

Two fans of One Piece take a selfie at a One Piece exhibition in Shanghai. Photo: IC

Industry growth, international vision

Wang said it that it is positive to develop China and the world's cultural industry and increase China's international image for Chinese young people to have a stronger copyright awareness.

"Actually, the first law on copyright in China was issued in 1990, and we have made great progress in a short time of about 30 years," he said. "Although now the copyright awareness of the public in China still has a gap compared with people in developed countries, we are doing better and better."

According to the report, the improvement of copyright awareness of ACG fans in China and their huge consumption potential has led to a hot trend of introducing foreign cultural products and an investment trend from overseas, especially Japan.

According to the Japanese Animation Industry Report released by the Association of Japanese Animations in August 2016, copyright deals and related product development with China is becoming a more and more important force in driving Japan's animation industry forward. According to the report, Fuji Television, one of the producers of the animation Assassination Classroom told the association that the cost of producing Assassination Classroom was totally covered just by selling the copyright in the Chinese market. Also, Toei Animation's copyright to broadcast in China was bought out by iQiyi, and its animation movie Stand by Me Doraemon's (2015) box office earnings were 10 billion yen ($9.17 million) in China, which is even more than in Japan.

According to a report by newsportal in October 2016, besides selling copyrights to China, many Japanese producers have already begun investing in the Chinese animation industry. Li Xiaoting, director of Tencent's animation department said on October 20 that the animation industries in China and Japan are going into a win-win direction, which is based on cooperation in copyright deals.

"I believe that with the growth of the younger generation, especially ACG fans, the copyright awareness of Chinese people will become stronger and stronger," Zhang said. "And with our strong support for animation, manga and games, the ACG and cultural industries in China and foreign countries, not only in Japan, will boost together in the future."

Newspaper headline: Increasing awareness


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