This past week eight art publishing & licensing companies met in Guangzhou to attend the Canton Fair and the Jinhan Fair. We have been aware for years that illegal copies are in the market, but we were shocked at the level. We found over 30 exhibitors ripping off one or more of our companies’ artwork, and we're certain there are many more that we did not get to. It got depressing to walk into yet another booth showing counterfeit goods.
What was heartening was the effect that we had as a group of 12 people from 8 companies. In many of the booths either we or the exhibitor physically took product off the walls and shelves. Some exhibitors refused, and we had some heated exchanges – the police even showed up once. I can tell you that as an industry we have fierce and passionate defenders of our companies and our artists!
We approached one of the show organizers to ask for help on fighting copies, but they put so many red-tape roadblocks in the way that they effectively support the counterfeiters. Having seen a lot of money and time wasted on official legal channels, we took the approach of making a big stink and causing a lot of commotion. We certainly got the attention of exhibitors, as well as that of American and European customers at the show. The eight publishers committed to attending as a group again, and we are all working on follow up steps from this trip, including directly contacting and confronting the offending companies, building the number of art publishing / licensing companies coming
with us to Chinese shows, alerting trade press in European and North American markets, soliciting the help of our legitimate framers and licensees in identifying and battling infringements, and considering completing the massive paperwork required to get official Chinese assistance.
My wish was that our trip would be a huge waste of time and we would find minimal copies at the show. That dream was sadly crushed. In its place I found renewed passion and solidarity in our industry to clean up art thievery, and hope and confidence that we can have a meaningful positive impact.
For more information, see press release.