Is is il­le­gal to pi­rate sports broad­casts? Law will de­cide

China Daily - - CHINA - By SUN XIAOCHEN sunx­i­aochen@ chi­

Busi­ness in­sid­ers and ex­perts are call­ing for stronger leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect sports broad­cast rights, as on­line piracy con­tin­ues to plague China’s bur­geon­ing sports en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

With the value of me­dia rights for ma­jor sports events sky­rock­et­ing, piracy — in­clud­ing il­licit livestream­ing — has emerged as a se­ri­ous is­sue that wor­ries gov­ern­ing bod­ies and those who hold the rights.

Last week, in an ef­fort to curb unau­tho­rized distri­bu­tion, the Chi­nese Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion barred fans from car­ry­ing high-end cam­eras and cer­tain other record­ing de­vices into top-tier league games.

Such ad­min­is­tra­tive mea­sures, and a se­ries of law­suits, have ex­posed the lack of clear le­gal pro­tec­tion for sports broad­casts, ac­cord­ing to a sem­i­nar in Bei­jing hosted on Fri­day by the Na­tional Copy­right Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China.

“The copy­right law sys­tem in China doesn’t rec­og­nize sports broad­cast­ing as ‘works’ sub­ject to its pro­tec­tion be­cause of the rel­a­tively low orig­i­nal­ity of the con­tent,” said Gao Si, the deputy direc­tor of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Pol­icy and Leg­is­la­tion Depart­ment.

Gao said that high orig­i­nal­ity is a de­ci­sive cri­te­rion dis­tin­guish­ing au­dio­vi­sual works, such as movies, that are di­rectly pro­tected by the Copy­right Law from those, in­clud­ing tele­casts and livestream­ing of sports com­pe­ti­tions, that are not un­der the um­brella.

Still, opin­ions vary in aca­demic and in­dus­trial cir­cles. Some schol­ars con­sider sports broad­cast­ing to be “un­cre­ative” work — just de­liv­er­ing ob­jec­tive facts to the au­di­ence — while busi­ness in­sid­ers ar­gue that the se­lec­tion and com­bi­na­tion of scenes is cre­ative enough to trig­ger copy­right pro­tec­tion.

The dilemma is re­flected in the vary­ing out­comes of law­suits.

In July 2013, Shang­hai No 1 In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court re­jected an ap­peal by China Sports Me­dia against a low­er­level court rul­ing that a re­broad­cast of an Asian Cup soc­cer game be­tween China and Uzbek­istan on stream­ing web­site Tu­dou was an in­fringe­ment of the copy­right of CSM, the le­git­i­mate broad­caster of the game. The court cited the ex­clu­sion of sports broad­cast­ing rights from the frame­work of the Copy­right Law.

In June 2015, the Chaoyang District Peo­ple’s Court in Bei­jing ruled in fa­vor of in­ter­net com­pany Sina, an au­tho­rized dig­i­tal broad­caster of the Chi­nese Su­per League, in its law­suit against web­site ifeng. The court or­dered the de­fen­dant to stop of­fer­ing pi­rated livestream­ing of CSL games and to pay 500,000 yuan ($73,000) in com­pen­sa­tion.

The court de­clared that the live broad­cast­ing of a sports event should be con­sid­ered suf­fi­ciently cre­ative to be pro­tected by law.

With so much money at stake, busi­ness in­sid­ers sug­gested that leg­is­la­tors should pro­tect sports broad­casts un­der the Copy­right Law as amend­ments are con­sid­ered.

“We feel the law could in­clude sports in its pro­tec­tion range by in­tro­duc­ing a quan­tifi­able stan­dard for the orig­i­nal­ity of live broad­cast pro­grams,” said Yan Bo, deputy direc­tor of copy­right and le­gal af­fairs at China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion.

A draft of amend­ments to the Copy­right Law is cur­rently be­ing re­viewed by the top leg­is­la­ture.

“The amend­ments should lay out a rig­or­ous and de­lib­er­ate process for any pos­si­ble con­se­quences,” said Chen Shaol­ing, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty at East China Univer­sity of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence and Law.

The copy­right law sys­tem in China doesn’t rec­og­nize sports broad­cast­ing as ‘works’ ... be­cause of the rel­a­tively low orig­i­nal­ity of the con­tent.” Gao Si, deputy direc­tor of the Na­tional Copy­right Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China’s Pol­icy and Leg­is­la­tion Depart­ment

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