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International Seminar on the Legal Protection for
Sports Broadcasts was Held in Beijing


On June 23, the International Seminar on the Legal Protection for Sports Broadcasts, co-hosted by State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (NCAC) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), was held in Beijing. This event brought together over 100 domestic and foreign representatives from across the intellectual property, legal and academic communities, sports industries, and organizations for collective administration of copyright to discuss the rights and interests of sports broadcast programs, how to protect sports broadcast programs, etc. It’s known that this seminar is on the agenda of the Intellectual Property Agreement concluded at U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), and has been included into the annual work plan of NCAC and USPTO.


Yu Cike

At the seminar, Yu Cike, Director General of Copyright Department of NCAC, said that there is no doubt that we should protect sports broadcast programs, but what legal protective measures should we take remains a question, as international and domestic regulations and views on this issue may vary. At the international level, live broadcasts and rebroadcasts of television programs including sports events often cause problems with rights and interests protection of broadcasting organizations, and have been subject to consultations under the framework of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). No agreement has yet been reached on substantive issues among countries. At the domestic level, the Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China does not explicitly stipulated for the protection of sports broadcast programs, but only stipulates that broadcasting organizations shall have the right to prohibit rebroadcasting of their radio or television broadcasts without permission. That is, there is no obstacle for broadcasting organizations to safeguard legal rights against traditional broadcast infringement. The Third Draft Amendments To Copyright Law (Draft for Review) submitted by NCAC to Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council stipulates that radio and television stations shall have the right to allow others to rebroadcast their radio or television programs in wireless or wired mode, but the revised draft has not been promulgated. This theme seminar was anticipated to provide legal theoretical basis for issues whether broadcasting organizations can directly resort to the Copyright Law for rights protection against online live broadcast of sports events, and whether there is any specific approach to safeguard rights applicable to sports organizers except for the Tort Liability Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Law of the People’s Republic of China for Countering Unfair Competition, etc.



Mark Cohen, Senior Counsel of USPTO, said that during 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Chinese government launched a series of effective copyright protection measures for live broadcasts and rebroadcasts of the event, which played a positive role in cracking down on piracy. These measures had brought about some legal issues that evolved into civil proceedings, but legal experts haven’t reached a consensus on these issues. Based on this, the United States and China concluded an agreement at the JCCT held in 2015, which stipulates that the legal protection for sports broadcasts should be subject to consultations between the two sides. It was expected that at this seminar the Chinese side would clarify and confirm the legal protection measures applicable to sports broadcast programs.


Mathew Alderson

Mathew Alderson, Partner of Harris Bricken, noted that sports broadcast programs are regarded as radio programs in the U.S., Australia, etc., and are protected by copyright laws. Yang Jin, Director of Legal Affair Department, 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Committee indicated that, the Olympic Games have been broadcast on television in general, which serves up a thrilling spectacle to the whole world. At present, the International Olympic Committee mainly resorts to copyright safeguard approaches to crack down infringement upon its intellectual property rights and related rights and interests.


Gao Si

According to Gao Si, Deputy Director General of Legal Department of NCAC, the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) consulted with Chinese copyright authorities 20 years ago, hoping sports broadcast programs can be legally protected as films in China. During 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, domestic institutions represented by broadcasting organizations also made such a request. And after Beijing won bid to host 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in 2015, what legal protective measures should be applied to sports broadcast programs became a hot issue again. She made clear that: “I don’t agree with the view that it’s a blank slate for sports broadcast programs in Chinese legislation”. The Rome Convention explicitly stipulates that “radio programs” shall be protected as copyright-related rights (neighbouring rights). According to China’s Copyright Law, the distinction between cinematographic works and visual recordings is clear: that is, visual recordings refer to “the recordation of a series of related images and pictures, with or without accompanying sounds, other than cinematographic works and works created by virtue of the analogous method of film production”; sound or visual recording producers shall have the right to distribute their sound or visual recordings via information network (Article 42). Therefore, sports broadcast programs should be protected as neighboring rights under the Copyright Law. Also, broadcast organizers of sports broadcast programs, as to their broadcast programs or signals, shall have the right of broadcasting and the right of reproduction (Article 45), including the right of dissemination via information network.

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Tang Zhaozhi

The opening ceremony of the seminar was moderated by Tang Zhaozhi, Vice Director General of Copyright Administration Department of NCAC. At the session, domestic and foreign guests, including Zheng Zhi, Director of Copyright and Legal Affair Division of General Office of CCTV, Ling Zongliang, Judge of Shanghai IP Court, Ma Yide, Vice-Chairman of Chinese IP Law Studies Association and Director of Sports Subcommittee, Wang Xiaoxia, Assistant General Counsel of Tencent, Neil Graham, Attorney Advisor (Copyright) of USPTO, Ella Wong, Senior President and General Counsel of NBA China, Yew Kuin Cheah, Senior Counsel of Global Content Protection of 21st Century Fox, Yan Bo, Chinaman of IP and Legal Committee, Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, Benoît Lory, Minister Counsellor at Trade Section, EU Delegation to China, Tom Duke, Senior IP Officer of British Embassy, Beijing, Prof. Eric Priest, Oregon University School of Law, shared views and opinions from domestic, international and industrial perspectives. They were encouraged to find an intellectual property system applicable to sports broadcast programs in legal terms on the basis of varied legal systems, and internationally-accepted standards and principles for originality.


Author:Lai Mingfang  Photo: Yu Zhiyuan

Update:June 28, 2017