This Article addresses the status of cyber copyright disputes in the People's Republic of China with an inside view of the government's influence and control over copyrighted works. Examining cyber copyright case law, the authors seek to answer the question of whether China's 2001 Copyright Law will lead to an increase in royalty payments under a fair distribution system. The need for equitable, consistent enforcement is pressing, as the proliferation of copyrighted material through mobile phone and Internet use is rapidly increasing. In China, all current-affairs news first flows through state-run news organizations. Thus, in order to post the news, commercial websites must contract with the state-run organizations over reprinting fees. The reprinting fees lead to the need for constant monitoring of other websites and to frequent copyright disputes over misappropriated articles. The top two commercial websites in China, sina.com and sohu.com, have sued each other for illegally reprinting copyrighted material. The outcomes of these suits will have far-reaching effects on the Internet user's ability to obtain and distribute online news and other copyrighted content. Since 2001, China's copyright laws have thinly protected databases as compilations. Commercial website owners prefer to protect the contents of their web pages as databases without claiming protection for pages as a whole. The websites adapt the news articles and claim copyrights through derivative works. However, the authors argue that the article in sina.com v. sohu.com should be considered "news on current affairs" and thus exempt from copyright protection. The authors acknowledge that commercial websites would welcome further copyright legislation on news content, but they do not believe such legislation would be beneficial because it would merely strengthen state-owned enterprises' economic power and social influence. State-owned organizations and legal entities control most TV stations, all foreign news, and up to 60% of the stock in China's publicly owned companies. Peer-to-peer networks allowing MP3 file sharing websites have boomed in China. However, recent legislation has limited free exploitation by requiring prior permission and fee payments to owners of digital works. Unauthorized users commit infringement when they share copyrightable MP3 files. Thus, the proliferation of free music through personal websites is rapidly decreasing, while prices for authorized online music have skyrocketed. The majority of China's copyright infringers on the Internet are students. The authors believe that the sweeping copyright legislation aimed at students will further stifle the students' freedom to learn about foreign cultures. The authors also assert that China should tolerate the free development of personal websites and instead expand the profit-making doctrine to prevent copyright infringement. Hastily introducing foreign copyright schemes into the socialistic Chinese economy may lead to cultural tragedy and to further interference with the thoughts and feelings of Chinese individuals.
Wei Yanliang and Feng Xiaoqing,
Comments on Cyber Copyright Disputes in the People's Republic of China: Maintaining the Status Quo While Expanding the Doctrine of Profit-Making Purposes,
7 Marq. Intellectual Property L. Rev. 149
Available at: http://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/iplr/vol7/iss1/5