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China’s Top 10 Copyright Events in 2020

Recently, China’s Top 10 Copyright Events in 2020 was selected and released by the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC).

1. The copyright legal system further improved. The year 2020 marked the 30th anniversary of the promulgation of the Copyright Law and witnessed law promulgations and amendments to further improve the copyright legal system. On May 28, the Civil Code, adopted at the 3rd Session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), provides an important institutional framework for strengthening intellectual property (IP) work. On November 11, the Amendment to the Copyright Law, adopted at the 23rd Session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee, is expected to improve the concepts and systems related to works and rights, increase the punishment for infringement and strengthen the law enforcement means of copyright authorities. On December 26, the Amendment to the Criminal Law (XI), adopted at the 24th Session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee, extends the statutory terms of imprisonment for copyright infringement crimes and intensifies efforts to crack down on copyright infringement.

2. The Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (hereinafter referred to as the Beijing Treaty) came into force. On April 28, 2020, the Beijing Treaty, administrated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), came into force. The Beijing Treaty, concluded in Beijing on June 26, 2012, is the first international IP treaty that was concluded in China and named after a Chinese city since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, with the aim to fully protect performers’ moral and economic rights with respect to their performances. The conclusion and entry into force of the Beijing Treaty is conducive to comprehensively enhancing the international protection of performers’ rights, thus effectively promoting the development of the audiovisual performance industry. Yan Xiaohong, Chairman of the Copyright Society of China, was elected as the first Chair of Beijing Treaty Assembly at the 61st Series of Meetings of the Assemblies of the Member States of the WIPO. This is the first time that a Chinese representative holds the position as the chair of WIPO copyright treaty assembly.

3. The Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) issued judicial interpretations and documents related to copyright. In 2020, SPC and SPP issued documents, including the Opinions on Strengthening the Protection of Copyright and Rights Related to Copyright, Opinions on Comprehensively Strengthening Judicial Protection of Intellectual Property, Opinions on Increasing Punishments of Intellectual Property Infringements According to Law, Interpretation of Several Issues Concerning the Specific Application of Law in the Handling of Criminal Cases Involving Infringements upon Intellectual Property Rights (III), Guiding Opinions on the Trial of Intellectual Property Civil Cases Involving E-Commerce Platforms, and Several Provisions on Evidence in Civil Procedures Involving Intellectual Property Rights. These IP-related judicial interpretations and documents strengthened the IP judicial protection and demonstrated the firm attitude of SPC and SPP in strengthening IP protection. In particular, the Opinions on Strengthening the Protection of Copyright and Rights Related to Copyright made clear provisions on strengthening the protection of the rights and interests of creators in accordance with the law and vigorously improving the quality and efficiency of case trials.

4. NCAC strengthened copyright administrative enforcement and supervision. In 2020, NCAC enhanced copyright protection by focusing on system development and strengthening administrative enforcement and supervision. In May, NCAC issued the Notice on Regulating the Copyright Order of Photographic Works to strengthen the regulation of pictures’ copyright and help put in place a long-term copyright protection mechanism for photographic works. In November, NCAC issued the Notice on Further Strengthening Evidence Examination and Determination in Copyright Administrative Enforcement, which lightens the burden on rights holders, and improves the working mechanism to make the full use of copyright administrative enforcement.

5. A verdict was reached in the case of pirated theatrical films by “phantom machine” in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province. NCAC, with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), and the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), launched the special campaign “Jianwang 2020”. The campaign focused on the online infringement and piracy that drew public concern, and on the key areas where infringement and piracy frequently occurred. 3,239,400 infringing and pirated links were removed, 2,884 infringing and pirated websites (APPs) were shut down, and 724 online infringement and piracy cases were handled. The campaign promoted the handling of major online infringement and piracy cases. During the campaign, the case of pirated theatrical films by “phantom machine” in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province was decided at the first instance, according to which, the chief culprit surnamed Ma was sentenced to six years in prison and fined CNY 5.5 million, and another 27 defendants were given criminal punishments. This verdict effectively punished the illegal acts of pirated theatrical films by “phantom machine” that plagued the industry.

6. The awarding list of 2020 WIPO-NCAC Copyright Awards were announced. On December 2, NCAC announced the awarding list of 2020 WIPO-NCAC Copyright Awards. Of the 20 awards, 6 Creativity Awards went to works including The Three-Body Problem, 5 Utilization Awards went to institutions or products including the “Xuexi Qiangguo” APP, 5 Protection Awards went to institutions including No. 5 Collegial Panel of No. 3 Civil Adjudication Tribunal of SPC, and 4 Administration & Management Awards went to institutions including Copyright Division of Beijing Copyright Administration. WIPO-NCAC Copyright Awards, jointly established by WIPO and NCAC in 2008, is the top copyright award in China for the entities and individuals in recognition of their outstanding contributions to copyright creation, protection, utilization and management. The Awards help advance the copyright undertakings and develop the copyright industry.

7. The copyright case of sports events programs was retried by Beijing High People’s Court with a changed judgment. In September, Beijing High People’s Court made a retrial judgment on the dispute over copyright infringement and unfair competition between Beijing Sina Internet Information Service Co., Ltd., Beijing Tianying Jiuzhou Network Technology Co., Ltd., and LeTV Co., Ltd. The court affirmed that the programs of Chinese Football Association Super League (CSL) involved in the case constituted the works created by a process analogous to cinematography, revoked the second-instance judgment and affirmed the first-instance judgment. For many years, the industry has not reached a consensus on the copyright of sports event programs, an issue that matters a lot to the development of sports industry. This case was filed to the court in 2015, with its first and second instances attracting wide attention. The retrial judgment reflects the courts’ stances on the copyright issue of sports event programs, which has a profound impact on the booming sports industry.

8. China’s copyright industry developed rapidly. The survey report of the Economic Contribution of China’s Copyright Industry in 2019, released by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication on December 30, shows the added value of copyright industries reached CNY 7.32 trillion in 2019 and accounted for 7.39% of GDP. Among others, the added value of core copyright industries reached CNY 4.59 trillion, accounting for 63% of copyright industry. The share of copyright industries in the national economy rose steadily, revealing the further expansion of the industry scale. The Report on the Development of China’s Online Copyright Industries (2019), released by NCAC Online Copyright Industry Research Base on September 16, shows that China’s online copyright industry market in 2019 scored a year-on-year increase of 29.1% to CNY 958.42 billion. According to the report, China’s online copyright industry in 2019 witnessed stable growth, constantly improved content quality and a more reasonable industrial structure.

9. Nearly 300 film and television practitioners and online writers called for boycott of plagiarism. In December, nearly 300 well-known film and television practitioners and online writers signed joint open letters or proposals to call on media platforms to boycott plagiarism, which attracted wide attention from the society. At the end of December, the writer and director Guo Jingming and the scriptwriter and director Yu Zheng respectively apologized to the writer Zhuang Yu and the writer Qiong Yao for plagiarism. Zhuang Yu and Qiong Yao accepted the apologies and put forward relevant proposals. This incident reflected the demands of the industry and the public for a purified copyright environment. It triggered a wide discussion on respecting copyright and boycotting plagiarism, and raised the awareness of respecting copyright and creation in the whole society.

10. The copyright order of karaoke was further standardized. In recent years, NCAC, together with relevant departments, has continued to strengthen regulation over copyright collective management, especially with regard to the copyright order of karaoke, to protect the legitimate rights and interests of right holders and users. In January, China Audio-Video Copyright Association (CAVCA) and other organizations jointly issued the Implementation Plan for Copyright Licensing in the Song and Dance Entertainment Industry, which improves the mechanism of copyright licensing and fee distribution in the karaoke industry, and sticks to solving the copyright issues in the karaoke industry by means of copyright collective management. To offset the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, relevant associations issued the Implementation Plan for the Copyright Licensing Fees in the Karaoke Field in 2020, which helps relevant enterprises restore their business smoothly by reducing or exempting the copyright licensing fees of karaoke venues, and consolidates the copyright market order in the karaoke field.