The Top Ten Highlights of China Copyright in 2019

Since 2009, every year the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) solicits nominations from all sectors of society for ‘The Top Ten Highlights of China Copyright’. On 11 February, the NCAC announced the ten winners for 2019 (see the result of 2018 here). 

1. Significant achievements in combating cinema piracy 

This is a story of Chinese New Year Film (CNYF) (in Chinese 贺岁片) and copyright infringement. First of all, noun explanation (source: Wikipedia): 

A Chinese New Year film, usually released during the Chinese New Year, is a film that varies in genre (fantasy, comedy, action, animation, and the like) but whose style is generally relaxed and humorous.

The season of CNYF actually raises its curtain as early as December, i.e. around Christmas, and extends through the new year until the 15th day of the first lunar month. Benefitting from huge holiday crowds, CNYF is big business. But so is cinema piracy. 

In 2019, cinema piracies attracted public attention by ‘upgrading’ to high definition (HD). Mr Wu, CEO of Firstbrave Information Technologies, a company that provides technical support to the NCAC (relevant Katpost in 2017), summarised three characteristics of the 2019 CNYF piracy. First, within 36 hours of the film’s release, over a thousand HD pirated resources appeared online. This scale of HD piracy had never been seen before. Second, there was a flood of infringements in instant messaging tools, browsers and third-party small and medium websites. Third, 70% of the servers of these infringing websites were located abroad. 

The NCAC took proactive steps to combat cinema piracies, cooperating with the State Internet Information Office, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the State Film Bureau and telecommunications operators. The Cinema Movie Copyright Protection Alliance was established, which, collaborating with the Ministry of Public Security, closed down 361 pirated movie websites and 57 pirated apps. Moreover, 14,000 pieces of equipment used to produce HD pirated movies were seized, including seven projection servers. The total amount involved was CNY 230 million. 

2. China Internet Copyright Protection and Development Conference 

On 26 April, the NCAC held the ‘2019 China Internet Copyright Protection and Development Conference’ with the theme of ‘Keep to the right path and Innovation: Strict Protection of Internet Copyright in the New Era and Industrial Development’. 

The conference launched the ‘Sword Net 2019’ special action. Readers may remember that last year, as reported here, the ‘Sword Net’ action was dedicated to tackling copyright infringements in the emerging short video field. In 2019, the action was broaden to five areas: 
  1. News media and its copyright protection 
  2. Online protection of the copyright of cinema films 
  3. Supervision of copyright in both the software and hardware for streaming media 
  4. Copyright protection of the image market (more details in the No 5 Highlight below) 
  5. Consolidation of the achievements of copyright governance in key areas of Internet. 
The conference released four key documents: 
3. New technologies accelerate copyright protection

In 2019, China embraced several cutting-edge technologies, e.g., blockchain, 5G, big data, artificial intelligence, to strengthen copyright protection. 

Among these, blockchain probably was the talk of 2019 in China – especially after the public speech given by President Xi in October 2019, in which he pointed out that: 
The integrated application of blockchain technology plays an important role in new technological innovations and industrial changes.
We must take blockchain as an important breakthrough in independent innovation of core technology, clarify the main development direction, increase investment, and focus on overcoming a number of key core technologies to accelerate the development of blockchain technology and industrial innovation.
Accordingly, blockchain-related technologies have been rapidly and widely developed in multiple areas, including copyright protection, evidence preservation and judicial implementation. 

4. National Copyright Innovation and Development Base

On 24 October, the ‘National Copyright Innovation-driven Development Base’ was established at Qianhai Shenzhen-Hongkong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone. Given its unique geographical location, policy and industrial advantages, Qianhai is expected to create a highland and benchmark for copyright protection and industrial development. 

See a brief wiki-introduction of Qianhai zone here

5. Thorough regulation protection in the image market 

Visual China Group (VCG) is the largest stock image and media footage provider in China and the third largest in the world. 

In April 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project team captured the first image of a black hole. VCG promptly put its own logo on the image and added it to its pay-to-use library without attribution to the EHT team, attracting criticism. 

VCG apologised and swiftly took down the picture along with many other non-compliant images, which included the national emblem and flag. The storm may have temporarily subsided but it has left several problems that are yet to be fully solved. Issues include the responsibility of platforms like VCG to review the copyrights of works submitted by contributors and to follow correct procedures to ascertain the rightful copyright owner. 

The NCAC has since incorporated copyright protection of images into the aforementioned ‘Sword Net 2019’ special action and has been working on drafting standard practices for better regulation. 

Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

6. The 15th ‘Sword Net’ action achieved remarkable results 

From May to November in 2019, the NCAC, the National Internet Information Office, the MIIT, and the Ministry of Public Security jointly launched the 15th ‘Sword Net’ action - a special action to combat online copyright infringement and piracy. 

The sword worked well online: it deleted 1.1 million copyright-infringing links, captured 10.75 million pirated products, investigated 450 online copyright infringement cases (including 160 criminal cases). In total, the amount of money involved in the case was CNY 524 million. 

7. Judicial ruling strengthening protection of integrity of works 

The case in question: Muye Zhang v China Film Co. LTD, Chuan Lu, Dream Author Film Co., Le TV Film Co., No 587 (2016), Civil Final Instance, Beijing Intellectual Property Court, 8 August 2019 (full text of the judgment here, in Chinese, online translatable).

In this case, writer Muye Zhang claimed that the movie, ‘Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe’– which was adapted from his novel, ‘Ghost Blows Out the Light’– was altered (by the aforementioned film companies) in a way that amounted to distortion and mutilation of his original work. 

Beijing Intellectual Property Court (the Court), in the second-instance judgment, found that the movie in question had significantly changed several core expressive elements of the original novel including the main character, the setting and the background of the story. Moreover, it had substantially altered the perspectives and emotions that the author expressed. It ruled that such changes, which constituted distortion and mutilation, had infringed the author’s right of integrity. 

The decision clarified several important aspect. Among them is the principle that prejudice to an author’s honour or reputation is not a prerequisite for infringement of the right of integrity under Copyright Law in China. Furthermore, whether or not the author of the allegedly infringing work had obtained the right of adaptation does not affect the protection of the integrity of the work or the author’s personal rights. This is a necessary wake-up call for the film and television industry and will play an important part in promoting respect for and protection of creators’ originality throughout society. 

8. Establishment of The National Copyright Exhibition and Authorisation System 

From October 20th to 22nd, the ‘2019 China · Beijing International Copyright Licensing Conference’, hosted by the National Copyright Exchange Center Alliance, was held in Beijing, aiming to promote the sustainable development of the copyright licensing industry and to build an international and market-oriented high-end platform for the entire industry. 

The conference is a key step for the NCAC to build the National Copyright Exhibition and Authorisation System. It is led by the China International Copyright Expo and hosted by the NCAC. Associated regional copyright and trade fairs are run in several locations, e.g. Qingdao, Nanjing, Dongguan, Chengdu and Shang Free Trade Zone. 

9. China Culture and Entertainment Industry Association

In 2019, taking an active role in industry associations, China Culture and Entertainment Industry Association (CCEA) initiated serious measures to ensure that the song, dance and entertainment industry strictly abides by copyright laws and regulations. The CCEA also seeks to continuously raise awareness of copyright protection. 

The CCEA encourages its members to actively cooperate with relevant collective copyright management organisations and has been involved in optimising the copyright licensing mechanism in the karaoke industry. 

It also played a commendable role in building and improving a collective copyright management system that complies with international conventions and has Chinese characteristics. This system regulates the copyright order in the song, dance and entertainment industries. 

10. China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone Copyright Service Centre 

On 24 September, China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone Copyright Service Centre – the first copyright professional service platform to be set up in a Pilot Free Trade Zone – commenced operation. It offers accelerated services for copyright registration, monitoring, early warning and safeguarding. 

The establishment of this copyright service centre in a primary Pilot Free Trade Zone in China has great significance for other free trade zones. It will serve to highlight the role of copyright and help to achieve benign developments. 
The Top Ten Highlights of China Copyright in 2019 The Top Ten Highlights of China Copyright in 2019 Reviewed by Tian Lu on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 Rating: 5

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