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Copyright in China

The following appears as an editorial in today's NY Times
(http://nytimes.com, registration required).  The topic is copyright.  We
should expect to see more abuses of this kind in the future, exponentially
more, as the Internet makes piracy and the alteration of text much easier
than they are in hardcopy.  Open Access documents will be particularly
susceptible to this kind of abuse--which, I hasten to add, is not an
argument against OA but a plea for careful (and costly?) management of all
digital materials.  The editorial is written with winning humor ("'The
town of Hope, where I was born, has very good feng shui'"), but it takes
little to imagine papers on controversial scientific subjects (say, stem
cell research) getting distorted in awful ways.  

My meat-and-potatoes question of the morning is, Who will pay for the
management of textual integrity when economic incentives are removed from
the equation?

Joe Esposito

Bill Clinton's Fake Chinese Life

Published: October 24, 2004
Who knew that back in Bill Clinton's early days in Arkansas, the future
president and his Uncle Buddy sat around and chewed the fat, ham fat to be
precise, and talked about how China was one of the world's most ancient
cultures and had produced Four Great Inventions, one of which was

Yet there it is, all that love of China and things Chinese, right in the
latest bootlegged version of Mr. Clinton's autobiography, "My Life," sold
on the cheap in mainland China and now retranslated back into English,
most recently by Alex Beels in the latest issue of Harper's Magazine. The
fake version reveals a Clinton family obsessed with China's strong points,
with how Chinese science and technology "left us in the dust." Readers
will learn that the future president, to impress Hillary's mother, had
rhapsodized about such things as the Eight Trigrams, documented in "The
Book of Changes" several thousand years ago. Another retranslation of the
pirated translation last summer has Mr. Clinton explaining to Hillary that
his nickname is "Big Watermelon."

In the Western publishing world - in fact, in the Western business world -
such purloined texts are no laughing matter. The American Chamber of
Commerce recently singled out China's lack of enforcement of laws against
counterfeit goods and its failure to protect intellectual property rights
as problems. American publishers estimate that they lose at least $40
million a year to Chinese forgeries.

Indeed, shoppers in Beijing routinely go to an area called Knockoff
Central to buy imitation Gap sweaters or mock Timberland shoes. Some
copies aren't so bad, to the chagrin of those trying to sell the real

China is not the only place where fakes are sold, of course. Counterfeit
Guccis and Armanis appear with some regularity on New York City sidewalks,
and the problem for publishers and other businesses is worldwide. But on
the narrow issue of books - particularly books by the Clintons - China has
been particularly rough. Simon & Schuster withdrew the publication rights
for the Chinese publisher of Senator Hillary Clinton's book last year
because of distortions and deletions in the text.

The pirated translations of Mr. Clinton's book also delete any references
to the lack of freedom in China. But these fake publishers have certainly
managed to take plenty of liberties with the text. One of the best
examples is the very long opening sentence of Mr. Clinton's version, which
takes 48 words to detail his birth, even the stormy weather that preceded
the big event. The first sentence in the pirated Chinese version says:
"The town of Hope, where I was born, has very good feng shui."

Joe Esposito