Greg Pilarowski is the founder of Pillar Legal P.C., a boutique international law firm with offices in Shanghai and the San Francisco Bay Area that focuses upon providing legal services for technology, media and entertainment companies with interests in China and/or the United States. He is also part of the new “Games and the Law” track at NG15, and will take the stage on 21 May with a session named “Entering the China Game Market”.
NG: Greg, as a lawyer you spent not only part of your studies in Sweden, but practiced game law in the US and in China for a number of years. What is for you the most striking difference between developer – publisher agreements in the US and in China?
GP: The US, like Europe, has a rule of law system, meaning that the law must be obeyed by all members of society, including the law makers themselves. In China, however, law is one of many tools that the Communist Party uses to rule the country. Law does not constrain the power of the Party itself. This difference in legal systems and the position of law in society is important to keep in mind when considering any legal issue in China, including the practice with respect to game license agreements. In China, a purely domestic developer – publisher agreement, like nearly all contracts in China, tend to be very brief and often vague when compared with longer and more precise US style contracts. This is, of course, not an unreasonable approach given the nature of law in China. International game license agreements with one Chinese party and one foreign party, however, often follow US or international practice.
NG: How has the IP system in China evolved? Is it still quite difficult for a Westerner to claim IP rights there?
GP: The IP laws in China themselves are not radically different from the IP laws of the US But as noted above, the nature of law in China is very different from the US China’s stage of economic development is also very different. Given those two key differences, it’s not surprising that respect for intellectual property and the related laws is lower in China than in the US That said, as many have expected, enforcement of intellectual property rights is improving as Chinese stakeholders have more intellectual property assets that they need to protect. I expect that this trend will continue, but given the difference in legal systems it is unlikely that a foreign company will be able to use law as a means to protect their IP in China to the same degree that law can be used to protect their IP in the US or Europe.
Pillar Legal P.C. CEO Greg Pilarowski
NG: What would you say, is it simpler to bring a Chinese online or mobile game to Europe or a European game to China?
GP: Foreign companies cannot directly operate online games in China, while Chinese companies are free to operate online games in the US and Europe. As a result, foreign companies must license their online games to a local operator if they want to enter the China market. Given China’s concerns about controlling the Internet, it is unlikely that this trade barrier will be removed in the near term. On the mobile game front, foreign companies are allowed to directly publish through the various app stores in China, but this process can be cumbersome since the app store market in China is fragmented among many players rather than just Apple and Google (Google Play is generally blocked in China). There are, of course, language, cultural and other localisation issues to consider as well. That said, a number of foreign online and mobile games have performed very well in China.
Greg Pilarowski’s talk entitled “Entering the China Game Market” is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, 21 May in the Reykjavik room at Slagthuset. Read more about Greg Pilarowski on the conference website here and his talk here.
Ready to expand your horizons? Greg Pilarowski – Chinese market entry expert – another great reason to join us for Nordic Game 2015, 20-22 May in Malmö, Sweden. Register today!