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Copyright revisions lauded, up to a point

By Cao Yin | China Daily | Updated: 2020-05-22 09:36
[Photo/Sipa]

Legislators, experts say further study needed to address other problems

National legislators and experts on intellectual property rights have welcomed stronger protection of online copyrights and harsher punishments for copycats in newly released draft amendments to existing law while suggesting that some new types of infringements in cyberspace be further studied.

"The current Chinese Copyright Law has neither caught up with economic, technological and cultural growth nor solved new problems in the industry," said Li Rui, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. "So it's urgent and necessary to revise the law."

Li's remarks follow the advice of the NPC Standing Committee, the country's top legislature, which deliberated on draft revisions to the law late last month.

The current law, which has been in effect for 30 years, had played an important role in encouraging innovation and protecting copyrights, Li said, "but it cannot give more legal support to new types of online copyrights, let alone end related disputes, even though it was amended in 2001 and 2010".

Statistics released by the China Internet Network Information Center last month showed that there were 904 million internet users across the country by March, up 75.08 million compared with the end of 2018.

While witnessing a significant rise in the number of netizens, the nation is also seeing a big increase of IP-related conflicts online, especially copyright disputes.

From Sept 9, 2018, to March 31, for example, the Beijing Internet Court filed 42,121 cases on online IP rights, more than 99 percent of which involved online copyright issues.

"Online copyrights need stronger and quicker protection because more works, including novels, pictures and videos, are emerging online, and because of how fast information spreads on the internet," said Kang Lixia, a lawyer specializing in IP-related disputes at Beijing Conzen Law Firm.

"If the online infringement cannot be stopped in a timely manner, the works' creators will face greater economic losses, as collecting evidence online for them is also a big challenge," she said, adding that highlighting protections for online copyrights in the latest draft is "essential and urgent".

The draft's full text has been published on the website of the NPC Standing Committee, which is soliciting opinions from the public and authorities.

Kang also applauded the increased punishments in the draft, saying they posed a bigger threat to copyright violators and a more effective measure against piracy.

The draft stipulates that if a copyright owner clarifies the cost of using his or her works, people using the works without paying or those deliberately infringing on the copyright will be ordered to pay five times the cost in compensation.

In cases where the cost of infringing on a copyright is not clear or when the loss to copyright holders and benefits gained by infringers cannot be determined, the draft raises the ceiling for compensation that pirates will have to pay to 5 million yuan ($706,000), up from 500,000 yuan.

"The harsher punishment is fact-based and will improve the innovation, protection and application of copyrights," said Li Xueyong, another member of the NPC Standing Committee.

But he added that the draft still needs to be further amended, balancing copyright protection, technological innovation and internet development.

National legislator Yang Zhijin agreed, saying "we should give more respect to copyrights and also prevent those rights from being abused.

"In other words, we need to pay more attention to improving the draft so we can find better ways to protect copyrights while ensuring that works can be safely placed online."

Liu Xiuwen, a senior lawmaker, said there were a few problems-such as how to protect copyrights on livestreaming platforms and whether works made by robots should be safeguarded-that still had no clear solution, "which requires us to conduct further studies and promote the draft in a timely manner".

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