A total of 101 websites signed a declaration yesterday promising to facilitate the protection of Internet-related intellectual property rights amid the country's stepped-up efforts to curb widespread piracy.
In the declaration, these websites vowed to "insist on the principle of acquiring copyrights before release, not spreading non-licensed works and "adopting necessary techniques to prevent users from uploading films and TV programs that are being publicly screened or broadcast.
These websites "should actively communicate with copyrights owners and related associations to establish a new system of authorization suitable to the Internet environment," according to the declaration.
Signers of the declaration include Web portals and sites for video-sharing, music, games, literature, e-commerce and BBS websites, including sina.com, youku.com, top100.cn and tianya.cn.
"The film industry has been the biggest victim of Internet-related violation of copyrights. The signing of this declaration has shown some hope to Chinese filmmakers," said Zhu Yongde, president of the China Film Copyright Association (Collective).
According to a survey by the association, 47 percent of Chinese film audiences watch films on the Internet, most of which are not legally licensed.
"The Internet is a more efficient way of transmission compared to traditional forms. We hope to cooperate with various websites to develop a model that is beneficial to both sides," Zhu said.
However, Zhang Chaoyang, CEO of sohu.com, expressed his concern about the effectiveness of the declaration.
"During the 10-plus years of development of the Internet industry in China, we have signed many declarations of this kind, to limited effect," he said. "I think the real protection of Internet-related intellectual property rights still depends on legal procedures."
During a four-month project last year, 558 cases of Internet-related copyright infringement were investigated, 375 illegal websites were closed, and illegally copied material was blocked or ordered deleted 556 times. The project also resulted in more than 1.3 million yuan ($196,000) in fines and the confiscation of 163 servers. Twenty-five cases of suspected criminal offenses have been transferred to judicial departments.
"Almost all websites in China have problems of copyright infringement. It's high time that we do something to protect Internet-related intellectual property rights," said Wang Ziqiang, director of the copyright department of the General Administration of Press and Publication.
"Besides a sound legal system, the protection of Internet-related copyrights also awaits the improvement of copyright owners' awareness of their rights and the self-discipline of the Internet industry," he said.
Zhang Xiuping of the Copyright Society of China said the society is working to form a work committee for Internet-related copyrights.
According to the China Internet Network Information Center, China's Internet users reached 384 million last year, an increase of 28 per cent over the previous year. In addition, the number of domain names and websites in China reached 16.8 million and 3.2 million respectively.