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China builds $940m carbon copy of Austrian town

China builds $940m carbon copy of Austrian town

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A Chinese mining tycoon cloned one of Austria's UNESCO World Heritage Sites to attract local tourists.

Can you enforce copyright over an entire town?

The BBC News reports that the Alpine village of Hallstatt, Austria -- a major tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Site -- has been replicated in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, down to the clock towers and the steep, pointed roofs atop wooden houses.

"The population is amused that such a little place of the region Salzkammergut is important enough to get a copy," Hallstatt mayor Alexander Scheutz said in the clip. (You can view it here.)

The project cost $940 million, according to China Daily, and was conceived by a local "mining tycoon."

To be fair, the project was conceived as a tourist attraction, not a living village. And industry tycoons in developing nations have a long, storied history of imitating the Old Country, for personal or financial means. But never on this scale.

It's certainly not a bit of news that will help China deflect a reputation that it can't innovate on its own, and it raises all sorts of questions about intellectual property and urbanization. (What if China, flush with cash, were indeed to copy one of the world's cities? How would it respond?)

On the other hand, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery -- especially when those cultural ties are with an increasingly powerful global economic force.

Photo: The real deal. (Oliver Wald/Flickr)

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure