Wednesday 17 April 2013

China prioritises IP enforcement and administration

The China Daily reports that “Piracy has long been staining the reputation of China on intellectual property rights protection. However, thanks to government crackdowns and public awareness, things have changed for the better.” In late January, Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan called for more efforts to fight copyright infringement and counterfeit products in China and Wang, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, stressed that the crackdown on intellectual copyright infringement and counterfeit products was an important task that should be intensified for the long term, pointing out the accelerated pace of enforcement over the last two years aimed at curbing illegal activities.

The manufacture and sale of counterfeit products and copyright infringement has long been a serious problem in the country, and two recent news reports caught my eye: In the first, the China Daily reported that a defendant, Wan Yongshen,  had  been sentenced to six months in jail and fined 2,000 yuan ($320) in the Haidian District People's Court in Beijing. Wan was convicted of illegally publishing copies of the works of Mo Yan, winner of last year's Nobel Prize in literature. The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications (NOAPIP)  said that Wan Yongshen published 3,000 illegal copies of Mo's books. The maximum sentence available to the court was seven years (substantially more for [publishing pornographic material). 

In the second case, the local authorities in Central China's Henan province raided a publishing house suspected of printing pirated books and found some 20,000 illegal copies. According to NOAPIP, they informed local authorities about the case after being tipped off by a letter in November. Local law enforcers in Zhoukou city then raided Longtu Printing Company and confiscated the alleged illegal publications, most of which were "driving test guidance books". The case has been transferred to police for further investigation "considering its seriousness", said local authorities.

NOAPIP reported it had been involved in fighting 36 important copyright cases, including Wan's case, in 2012, in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Security, National Copyright Administration, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. NAOPIP also disclosed 10 most common forms of copyright infringement cases that it fought in 2012. Among them, the most serious punishment handed out was an 11-year prison sentence in Tianjin, while the highest fine was 3.2 million yuan, for a copyright case in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. In early 2011, police arrested more than 4,000 people suspected of IPR violations in a nationwide crackdown; The Ministry of Public Security announced that vendors of illegally copied films, music or other copyright products online will face up to three years in jail. NOAPIP  said that in 2012, 5,331 copyright infringement cases had been brought nationwide and more than 40 million pirate items confiscated or destroyed.  45 million illegal publications were confiscated and more than 15,000 related cases were handled in China in 2012. In February 2012, the country launched a nationwide campaign against online piracy, during which authorities investigated more than 2,800 cases, involving 7.74 million yuan ($1.23 million), and withdrew certificates from at least 36 websites and companies.  China's Ministry of Culture announced  that it has opened investigations into 185 websites over suspicions of piracy and other illegal operations. The websites include 72 music websites, 67 animation sites and 46 gaming sites. The key target for 2013 will be piracy by online bookstores, e-commerce platforms and online auction websites.  

On the other side of the coin, a record-high number of 139,228 software copyrights were registered in China in 2012, according to the National Copyright Administration Agency. Beijing topped all municipalities and provinces with 39,125 registrations, followed by Guangdong and Shanghai. Software copyright registrations related to cloud computing contributed 1,946 filings, up 118% on 2011. The National Copyright Administration Agency also called on Chinese collection societies to “enhance their performance and transparency to better protect copyright holders”. With a history of just 20 years, collection societies are relatively new.  The Music Copyright Society of China was first established in 1992. Another four collective management organizations were founded in the past six years. Acknowledging that there were still serious issues with the systems already in place,  Yan Xiaohong, vice-director of the National Copyright Administration said "The collective management organizations need to improve their management level, and be more professional and transparent to better serve their members." and look to collection societies in developed nations for inspiration and guidance.

And an interesting judgment and judge's opinion on the protection of traditional folklore works in China, in the absence of statutory protection:

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