Treaty to bump up IP protections
Artists in China who previously could do little to stop people from filming and bootlegging their live performances will soon have legal protections after an international intellectual property treaty was approved by China’s top legislature on Thursday.
The Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, which protects performers’ intellectual property rights, is expected to improve the country’s image of IP protection globally.
“The treaty is the first of its kind to be finalized in China and to be named for a city in our country. Its approval shows our determination to tackle IP infringements in the audiovisual performing industry, and it will help us strengthen international cooperation in IP protection,” said Yan Xiaohong, deputy director of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.
The treaty, which was signed by 48 member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization in Beijing in 2012, legally entitles performers to authorize or prohibit the reproduction and distribution of their audiovisual works and will enable them to share the proceeds of performances marketed internationally with their producers.
The treaty will take effect after at least 30 member states submit approval documents to the WIPO. China is the third member to do so, after Syria and Botswana.
Experts said that joining the treaty, accepted in China by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, will significantly improve the protection of domestic performers’ IP rights and economic benefits in overseas markets, but it will bring challenges as well.
“It specifies the obligation of other members in the same framework to provide legal remedy and necessary help once Chinese performers’ rights are infringed by the unauthorized use of their works in their countries,” Wang Qian, an IP professor at East China University of Political Science and Law, said on Thursday.
“It fits well in our country’s plan to develop strong culture and soft power by staging more traditional Chinese opera and music shows abroad,” Wang said.
According to the treaty, legal protection of overseas performers’ rights to reproduce, distribute and market their audiovisual performances in films, operas and concerts should be mandatory in member states, which should take effective actions to investigate and punish violations.
The treaty put under protection the performers’ image, costume and body movements as part of their audiovisual performances. This is a huge improvement over the previous WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which only protected performers’ audio productions.
Still, accession to the treaty will bring about issues regarding relevant law revisions and identification of performers’ and producers’ rights.
China’s current law basically stays in line with the treaty, but there are some minor differences, which should be preserved in official statements, said Tang Zhaozhi, deputy director of the copyright management department of the State Copyright Administration.
According to the existing law, public broadcast platforms, including State TV, radio and websites, retain the rights to broadcast performers’ published audiovisual works without their permission. The treaty requires any broadcasters to do so after getting the performers’ consent.
“Our current law doesn’t set stipulations on the issue, so we claim that we will reserve the rights. Otherwise, we need to pay quite a big amount of remuneration to foreign performers,” said Tang.
Meanwhile, how to distinguish between performers’ rights and producers’ rights to the entire show remains an issue to be discussed, Tang said.
Artists and business insiders immediately hailed Thursday’s approval of the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances.
The treaty, under various titles, has been signed by 48 member states of World Intellectual Property Organization to date. It allows performers to share revenue generated internationally with producers and entitles them to authorize any reproduction or distribution of their works in overseas markets.
Producers and artists welcomed the treaty as a boost to intellectual property rights, saying it will encourage the creation of art. “It helps guarantee the rights of original artists and drives the development of original art in China,” said Liu Zhao, the founder of Stellion Era Cultural Communication, a performance company based in Beijing.
Liu’s company has signed artists including blues singersongwriter Zhang Ling and world music band Haya from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.
“Under the protection of the treaty and related laws, artists can focus on creation, and the performance market in China will grow in a healthy way,” Liu said.
Wang Yuanyuan, founder and artistic director of Beijing Dance Theater, echoed Liu.
“It is a milestone for China to join such an intellectual property protection framework, which will not only give artists confidence to keep on creating but also benefit the audiences with authentic, high-quality art productions,” said Wang, a renowned choreographer of contemporary ballet works, including
About 300,000 pirated DVDs and CDs and other illegal publications are demolished on Thursday in Beijing as China steps up efforts to protect intellectual property rights. Also on Thursday, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress approved the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, which gives artists control of their overseas works and revenues.