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Cracking down on copyright infringement in China

Baidu and the IPCC sign a MoU
12.05.2016

Last week we had the pleasure of attending the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the International Publishers Copyright Coalition (IPCC) and technology giant Baidu.

The purpose of the MoU is to tackle access to works through Baidu that infringe copyright. This follows a number of initiatives that the Chinese government is promoting to crack down on IP and copyright infringement online.

Copyright holders in China notoriously face obstacles in asserting, managing, valuing and licensing their works online. China is the largest source of pirated products in the world. The sale of products that infringe trademarks, copyrights, patents, design rights and a number of related rights, even as far back as 2007, were estimated by the OECD to account for 8% of China’s GDP. Problems of copyright infringement in China are perceived as one of the biggest barriers to development for the creative industries.

A statement released by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) in January 2015 reasserted the legal implications for businesses that don’t adhere to IP law.

Following SAPPRFT’s statement, the National Copyright Administration announced that all unlicensed online music must be removed from platforms before the end of that month. In addition, any suspected unlicensed video platforms who fail to ‘reform’ would also be investigated.

Following this, in November 2015 Alibaba’s music platform Xiami.com took down 26,000 unauthorised tracks, and since 2015 Baidu have taken down written content infringing copyright from it’s Tieba platform at a rate of nearly 20,000 articles and links per month.

This crack-down has stimulated legitimate trade among China’s tech giants, creators and copyright holders. Over the last five years, Baidu has invested 1 billion RMB in content for its online video platform iQiyi. In 2015, Alibaba signed a distribution deal with German music rights company BMG, whilst Tencent announced that it expected to invest up to 5 billion RMB in original video content and acquiring rights to video content in 2016.

While this is encouraging, doing business in China is still difficult for independent content creators and independent rights holders. This is due to prohibitively high transaction costs and overheads from executing deals with the large online platforms.

Our work with the UK’s Copyright Hub is exploring the potential for a Chinese digital copyright exchange. The idea is to lower these transaction costs and overheads for businesses in China by simplifying and automating the licencing of copyrighted material.

To deliver this project we are working with Beijing Foreign Studies University and the AHRC’s Centre for Digital Copyright and IP Research at the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China. If you are interested in this work please get in touch.

- The BOP China Team


Further Reading (in Mandarin)

  • SAPPRFT on the legal implications for businesses that don’t adhere to IP law
  • National Copyright Administration announce the removal of all unlicensed online music, as well as the reformation of unlicensed video platforms
  • Baidu take down 20,000 articles and links per month since 2015, as well as investing 1 billion RMB in content for its online video platform iQiyi
  • Tencent invests billions in original video content and acquiring rights to video content
  • Xiami take down 26,000 unauthorised tracks