August 01, 2009

Implementing Measures for Administrative Copyright Penalties

Issuing Body: National Copyright Administration
Issuing Date: May 7, 2009
Effective Date:         June 15, 2009

China's National Copyright Administration has formulated new rules designed to update and standardize the administration of, and administrative penalties for, copyright violations. The Implementing Measures for Administrative Copyright Penalties (Copyright Administration Measures), which took effect on June 15, 2009, replace the old rules of the same name, which date back to September 2003. The Copyright Administration Measures refer to and punish copyright violations enumerated in other laws and regulations, such as the Copyright Law of the People's Republic of China and the Regulations on Computer Software Protection.

China has worked hard to draft, modernize and enforce intellectual property laws since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, in part because the government perceives the development of intellectual property law as essential to China's economic well-being. In June 2008, for example, the State Council issued the Compendium of China's National Intellectual Property Strategy, which declared the ambitious goal of developing China into an international leader in the creation, use, protection and management of all types of intellectual property rights. Since then, China Law Update has summarized several regulatory and legal efforts to reach those goals, such as the Amendments to the Patent Law of the People's Republic of China (China Law Update, February 2009) and the Interpretation of the Supreme People's Court on the Application of the Law Concerning Several Issues Regarding the Trials of Civil Disputes Related to the Protection of Well-known Trademarks (June 2009).

It is against this backdrop that the Copyright Administration Measures were issued.

Key Changes in the Copyright Administration Measures

The Copyright Administration Measures regulate—and punish—modern methods of copyright infringement, such as the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted work via the Internet and the unjustified refusal by an Internet service provider to disclose information relating to suspected infringement.

Compared with the 2003 version of China's copyright administration rules, the new rules make several important changes:

  • The Copyright Administration Measures include guidelines and a legal foundation for punishing on-line piracy.
  • The National Copyright Administration has been given expanded powers, the most significant of which is the ability to confiscate equipment used to make or store infringing materials.
  • The thresholds for what constitutes severe infringement have been lowered. Illegal profits of as little as RMB 2500 will result in a violation being considered severe. Similarly, if the aggregate value of infringing works—both sold and unsold—is just RMB 15,000, it constitutes a severe violation.
  • A work bearing a false signature is deemed to be an infringing work.

The Copyright Administration Measures are in part designed to bring China's administrative law up to date, taking into account acts that were made illegal under the Regulations on the Protection of Information Network Dissemination Rights and the Regulations on Collective Copyright Administration, both of which were enacted after the old copyright administration rules.

To combat widespread copyright infringement via the Internet within China, the Copyright Administration has also sought to enhance administrative supervision over digital copyright infringement. The Copyright Administration Measures expand the reasons for which the administration or its branches may confiscate devices used for installing or storing infringing products. In cases that involve information network dissemination rights infringement, the rules grant jurisdiction over investigating and imposing administrative penalties to the local Copyright Administration where the infringer resides, where the server or other devices are situated, or where the infringing Web site is registered.

In summary, the Copyright Administration Measures systematically improve the legal regime for copyright protection in China. With the expected commencement of revisions to the PRC Copyright Law, enhanced copyright protection and more uniform and transparent judicial and administrative supervision can be expected.

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