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October 10, 2012

UO Law’s Eric Priest explores the intricacies of Chinese intellectual property law at Berkeley conference

The October 2012 Chinese IP Law conference at University of California Berkeley Law brought together top Hollywood executives, high-level U.S. and Chinese IP attorneys, and prestigious scholars from both the U.S. and China, including UO Law’s Assistant Professor Eric Priest.

Eric Priest

"They were all terrific speakers and very nice people, too. It doesn’t get much better than that,” Priest said of his co-panelists, with whom he explored the topic of “Enforcement Issues in the Entertainment Industries.”

Priest’s presentation focused on how market pressures are proving to be more compelling than traditional copyright enforcement when it comes to fighting content piracy in China.

For example, popular YouTube-type sites in China, former havens for pirated video, have started cracking down on pirated content and spending tens of millions of dollars acquiring exclusive content licenses.

“This is a stunning turnaround in a market like China, which has long been criticized for its extremely poor intellectual property enforcement record, and while there are several causes, it appears the primary driver was these sites' fear of losing large transnational advertising clients, such as Coca-Cola, which the sites feared were increasingly worried about being associated with piracy,” Priest said.

The market pressure trend doesn’t stop at videos, though. Priest said a law recently passed in Washington State makes some companies liable for unfair competition if they sell a product in Washington that was made using pirated software, regardless of where the product was manufactured. A possible intended effect of the law is to give U.S. companies incentive to stop working with factories that don’t buy software licenses. For more detail on this topic, see a recent blog post Priest wrote on the topic for the American Constitution Society.

For Priest, the conference was a chance to catch up with like-minded scholars and industry professionals and further explore a topic that he’s been focusing on for years.

“Long before I went to law school, I was interested in China—Chinese history, Chinese literature, language and culture,” he said. During Priest’s first stay in China, from 1998-99, he worked with a Taiwanese record company and was fascinated by the copyright challenges of the Chinese entertainment industry. Once he became an IP lawyer, that interest naturally became even keener, Priest said. From 2007-09, he even ran a start-up in China focusing on licensing of online entertainment content. The real highlight of the conference, though, came when Peter Menell, a famous Berkeley IP law professor, introduced Priest at the beginning of the panel.

“(He) recounted to the audience that I used to write songs for a living and how I ‘vocalized’ some of them for my co-panelists at dinner the night before,” Priest said.

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