Add Angry Birds to the list of Western products and services that have wound up used without license in China.
A theme park inspired by the popular mobile game opened Sept. 1 in Changsha, a city in China's Hunan province, where visitors take turns with giant slingshots that shoot the birds at pig balloons.
This marks only the latest episode in what has been a decades-long struggle to get China to better protect intellectual property. Western critics complain that the country makes, at best, a half-hearted effort because it conflicts with China's development strategy. China has rejected that description as inaccurate.
But the debate goes on. In July, an American blogger living in China reported the existence of two counterfeit Apple stores in Kunming, China. The subsequent publicity forced Chinese authorities to shut the stores down as well as another 22 fake Apple stores that authorities said operated throughout the country.
Angry Birds Theme Park (Credit: Ye Xiumei)
The depth of the divide between the different narratives about copyright protection in China was on full display this week, when People's Bank of China adviser Li Daokui and U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke squared off at a forum sponsored by the World Economic Forum.
"Mr Locke has been an outstanding U.S. ambassador and has faithfully carried the message that the U.S. wants to give to our audience: to protect the economy there needs to be intellectual property protection," Li said. "But I disagree."
Locke replied that if China failed to vigorously enforce intellectual property rights "the full potential of Chinese talent will not be realized."
Back to the Angry Birds. It's unclear how Rovio, the game's Finnish developer, intends to respond. A spokeswoman for Rovio China told the website Mobiledia that it would welcome a partnership. It would seem that a ready-made market exists.
"This [Angry Birds attraction] serves as a method for people to purge themselves and to gain happiness," a park official told the Chinese gaming website Gamersky.com.