Ef­fec­tive on­line copyright law a thorny is­sue

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

PrincessWeiyang, a tele­vi­sion drama adapted from an on­line novel, The Poi­sonous Daugh­ter, has been caught in the vor­tex of copyright con­tro­versy since hit­ting TV screens with many ne­ti­zens ac­cus­ing the au­thor of the “orig­i­nal work” of pla­gia­riz­ing, even lift­ing en­tire chap­ters from, sim­i­lar types of nov­els.

Such an ac­cu­sa­tion, if proved, will be an­other ex­am­ple of poor in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights pro­tec­tion of on­line works in the coun­try, which, if not checked, would deal a blow to the development of the dig­i­tal cul­tural mar­ket. Data from Ten­cent in­di­cate the value of in­ter­net works, in­clud­ing IPR deals, was 420 bil­lion yuan ($60.72 bil­lion) in 2015 — and it is ex­pected to cross 560 bil­lion yuan this year.

Along with many ben­e­fits, the in­ter­net has also cre­ated dif­fi­cul­ties for copyright pro­tec­tion. The re­use of tra­di­tional works on the in­ter­net in new forms, such as through dig­i­tal­ized dis­posal, show the ef­forts to pro­tect copyright have not been fully suc­cess­ful. China started amend­ing its copyright law for the third time in July 2011. A se­ries of copyright dilem­mas, such as com­bat­ing cy­ber lit­er­a­ture piracy, il­le­gal on­line video ag­gre­ga­tion, non-pay­ment for mu­sic and live broad­casts of sports events, pose a ma­jor prob­lem for the healthy development of the in­ter­net sec­tor.

Cy­ber lit­er­a­ture piracy refers to unau­tho­rized re­print, du­pli­ca­tion and pub­li­ca­tion on the in­ter­net for com­mer­cial pur­poses. Con­sid­er­ing the third amend­ment to the copyright lawis go­ing on, the au­thor­i­ties can reg­u­late the in­ter­net sec­tor by, for ex­am­ple, ad­vo­cat­ing and en­cour­ag­ing copyright reg­is­tra­tion of on­line works and estab­lish­ing a cy­ber record­ing sys­tem. They should also in­ten­sify the crack­down on on­line piracy and mete out pun­ish­ments to copyright vi­o­la­tors.

On­line video ag­gre­ga­tion refers to the use of soft­ware to bring scat­tered on­line videos on an in­ter­net plat­form. This will en­able peo­ple to watch all the videos they want to, and net­work op­er­a­tors to pro­vide ser­vices such as a one-stop con­tent sup­ply model to at­tract more con­sumers and in­crease their prof­its.

But the risk of copyright en­croach­ment al­ways fol­lows com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion mod­els. So if on­line plat­forms en­gaged in video ag­gre­ga­tion claim to use deep-link­ing in­ter­net tech­nol­ogy, the onus to pro­vide proof for their claim should be on them. If up­load­ing of linked con­tents has the prior per­mis­sion or au­tho­riza­tion of copyright own­ers, they should be dis­played on screen. And if the users do not dis­play such per­mis­sion on the screen, they should be in­ves­ti­gated for copyright in­fringe­ment.

There have also been calls for reg­u­lat­ing on­line mu­sic copyright. In July 2015, theNa­tional Copyright Ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued a doc­u­ment urg­ing all on­line mu­sic providers to stop dis­sem­i­nat­ing mu­sic with­out for­mal au­tho­riza­tion and put all unau­tho­rized works off­line. This is the “sternest or­der of re­stric­tion” on the use of unau­tho­rized mu­si­cal works on­line. Still, the cy­ber mu­si­cal in­dus­try does not have a stan­dard­ized or­der and flooded with unau­tho­rized mu­si­cal works.

More strangely, in many cases of copyright en­croach­ment, copyright own­ers or their au­tho­rized plat­forms choose to ne­go­ti­ate with the users for set­tle­ment rather than fil­ing cases against them. This hap­pens be­cause of the long cy­cle,

high costs of and low com­pen­sa­tion in such cases, as well as the dif­fi­culty to col­lect ev­i­dence to pro­tect their copy­rights. Live broad­casts of on­line sports events can earn huge prof­its for in­ter­net plat­forms. But whether the con­tents of such live broad­casts should en­joy copyright pro­tec­tion and how to pro­tect them are still a thorny is­sue for both IPR reg­u­la­tions and the ju­di­cial department. For ex­am­ple, if the con­tents of such live broad­casts are de­fined as “works”, how to con­firm who owns them, how to iden­tify their orig­i­nal­ity and how to con­firm what type of rights are vi­o­lated? Such prob­lems are yet to be ad­dressed by le­gal clauses. How to ef­fec­tively pro­tect copy­rights as well as en­sure the pub­lic con­tin­ues to share au­tho­rized con­tents are a press­ing is­sue for coun­try’s copyright law. Le­nient laws will com­pro­mise the rights of copyright own­ers, but very strict mea­sures for copyright pro­tec­tion could re­strict the shar­ing of even many au­tho­rized works by the pub­lic. Leg­isla­tive, ju­di­cial and law en­force­ment de­part­ments should, there­fore, weigh the pros and cons and try to strike the right balance in copyright leg­is­la­tion and pro­tec­tion.

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