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  • Writer's pictureO'Neill Tran Law


For an artist, one frustrating aspect of the job is finding unauthorized copies of their work for sale online. These copies tend to be of poor quality and sold for a fraction of the price.  Often the knockoffs stem from a single supplier who lists the replicas on wholesale websites based in China, such as Alibaba.  The replicas are then purchased by smaller third-party websites for resale around the world.

The suppliers of the infringing knockoffs tend to be located outside of the United States, making it difficult to engage with them directly.  Thus, by instead providing the wholesale website owner notice of the supplier’s infringing listings and having the listings removed we can effectively curb the infringement.  In China, similar to the US, to have an infringing listing removed from a website valid ownership of a copyright must be proven.


While US copyright registrations are enforceable in China, enforcing them tends to be an onerous task. Furthermore, a US copyright registration doesn’t serve as prima facie evidence of the registrant’s ownership because US registrations do not contain a sample of the work.  

Given the difficulties of enforcing US copyright registrations in China, we recommend copyright owners voluntarily seek alternative copyright protection.  In China, copyright registration is not mandatory, as copyright attaches as soon as the work is created; however, proof of copyright ownership heavily depends on the evidence showing who created the work first.  Currently, there are two ways of obtaining such evidence:

1.      Recording a copyright; and


2.      Timestamps

Recording a copyright in China takes months and is a relatively costly endeavor.  Whereas a timestamp can be obtained in a matter of minutes and is significantly cheaper than obtaining a traditional copyright recordation. Furthermore, in recent years courts in China have widely accepted timestamps as having the same evidential effect as copyright recordation.

Practically speaking, timestamps have proven to be quite useful.  For example, Alibaba has an IP Protection Platform that allows users to authenticate intellectual property, including copyright ownership.  Once the copyright ownership has been authenticated through a timestamp, the copyright owner can then easily file infringement claims against infringing listings.  

We have found that through timestamping copyrighted works in China, we can efficiently target the suppliers of infringing works by having their wholesale listings removed, thereby impeding their ability to sell to third-party retailers.  Thus, for a fraction of the cost and time artists can stop the spread of low-quality knockoffs and regain control of their art.

To find out more about how to protect your artistic work please contact O’Neill Tran Law at or give us a call at (707) 559-8690.

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