New law to protect online copyright
Online copyright will be protected in China when an administrative rule takes effect from May 30.
The rule applies to services including uploading, storing, connecting or searching online literary, audio and video products in accordance with the instructions of the Internet content provider, without any content revision.
Under the rule, when copyright owners notify the Internet service provider (ISP) that their copyrights have been violated, the provider should take measures to remove relevant copied content.
ISPs that know about copyright violations but don't remove the violating content will face punishment themselves. All income from the illegal act will be confiscated, and a fine of up to three times the illegal income will be assessed. If the illegal income proves difficult to calculate, the maximum fine will be 100,000 yuan (US$12,000).
Internet services have developed at a rapid pace in China in recent years. The country has more than 1,000 ISPs, 10,000 Internet content providers and 100 million Internet users, according to Li Guobin, an official of the Ministry of Information Industry.
The rule states that serious and potentially criminal cases will be investigated by judicial departments.
"Copyright violations on the Internet are running rampant in the past few years, causing damage to the information industry," Xu Chao, an official of the National Copyright Administration, said at a news conference on Monday in Beijing.
"Though there are no specific statistics on economic loss caused by the violations, such violations will impair relevant industries if not curbed."
Sources from the National Copyright Administration said that a higher-level legal regulation will be worked out within two years. The administration is writing a draft to be submitted to the State Council for approval late this year.
China has adopted two ways to protect intellectual property rights -- through administrative and judicial departments. Therefore, administrative rules and legal regulations often work in parallel.
"This rule sounds good to our company and other counterparts," Li Bing, an editor of Sohu.com, said in a telephone interview.
In recent years, many articles produced by Sohu and published on its website have been copied by other Internet service providers.
The worst violation is that some ISPs have published plagiarized works. Sohu, which reprinted and published those works saying it did not know they were plagiarized, was involved in copyright disputes, Li said.
"Hopefully, the rule can better manage Internet services," she said.