China’s Top Tech Giants Clash on Social Media Over Plagiarism Claims

NetEase has accused Tencent’s “Honor of Kings” of copying its character art, sparking widespread online debate.

Two of China’s top tech giants, NetEase and Tencent, have taken their battle over copyright infringement accusations to social media, engaging in a heated dispute over the art design of two digital characters in their respective mobile games, “Onmyoji” and “Honor of Kings.”

Last week, the official account of “Onmyoji,” a mobile game launched in 2016 by NetEase, posted a letter from its law firm on the microblogging platform Weibo warning Tencent’s “Honor of Kings” of copyright infringement and unfair competition.

According to Netease, the two designs in question comprised a new skin for the “Honor of Kings” character Li Bai, introduced in January, and Dasiming, a character debuted on Thursday. The letter demanded that Tencent promptly address all allegations of plagiarizing two “Onmyoji” character designs.

An hour later, the “Onmyoji” official account took to Weibo again, this time posting a screenshot featuring a derogatory phrase to mock “Honor of Kings.” “If you want to cooperate, you can contact us directly. ‘Onmyoji’ is an original game, not some library,” it stated.

Over 70,000 fans shared the second post, particularly after the “Onmyoji” account announced that 20 players who shared the post on social media would receive the game’s newest digital skin.

On social media, a hashtag related to the “Onmyoji” letter to “Honor of Kings” drew over 100 million views, with tens of millions of users participating in the debate.

In response, “Honor of Kings” accused “Onmyoji” of defamation in their own Weibo post three hours later, while pledging to pursue legal action. “Honor of Kings” argued that they have been wrongfully accused of plagiarism, highlighting previous instances where “some games” were suspected of copying their characters.

A spokesperson for “Honor of Kings” confirmed to Sixth Tone Monday that their post was intended to deny all accusations of plagiarism made by “Onmyoji,” including the two instances specified in the lawyer’s letter. NetEase didn’t respond to Sixth Tone’s interview request.

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This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone