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Terracotta Warriors’ museum in battle over copyright with Chinese amusement park

Response is an unusual effort by a state institution to assert copyright protection in cultural properties

by Lisa Movius  |  20 March 2017
Terracotta Warriors’ museum in battle over copyright with Chinese amusement park
The Terracotta Warriors’ museum has accused a Chinese amusement park of violating its copyright by displaying unauthorised replicas. (Photo: Tuul and Bruno Morandi/Alamy)
The museum in China that oversees the Qin Tomb sites near Xi’an and its famous Terracotta Warriors is asserting its copyright in the army of funerary sculptures and their names at home and abroad. In February, the Emperor Qin Shihuang Mausoleum Site Museum in north-central China accused an amusement park that features replica warriors of violating its registered copyright. The response is an unusual effort by a state institution to assert copyright protection in cultural properties.

The 5,000-Year Cultural Expo Park in Anqing, Anhui province, contains a large pit of full-scale Terracotta Warrior models, along with other replica attractions.

In a statement, the museum claims “the exclusive right… to use the trademarks registered to [us], including ‘Terracotta Warriors’, ‘Qin Warriors’ and ‘Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Terracotta Warriors’. The unauthorised use—including names of the museum, registered trademarks and copyrighted pictures and videos—in Anhui is an infringement of [our] rights.”

The director of the 5,000-Year Cultural Expo Park, Yin Zhaopin, told China National Radio that it had not received any legal injunctions from the museum, arguing that “terracotta warriors are not Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum’s patent; terracotta figures can be made anywhere”. The Anhui-based copyright lawyer Wei Guo says: “Registration of a historical cultural relic for exclusive trademark rights is debatable.”

In January, the museum considered taking action against the Liège-Guillemins train station in Liège, Belgium, for displaying Terracotta Warriors not clearly labelled as replicas.

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