The course of building the legal system for the Internet in China

0 CommentsPrint E-mail, November 8, 2010
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By Li Yuxiao

Professor, Dean, School of Humanities, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications

Humans have irreversibly entered the information society with the advent of the Internet. Constructing a rule of law for cyber society has gradually become a goal of the majority of countries in the world, and China is also striving to reach that goal. At present, the legislation of Internet law in China is stepping into the track of healthy development, having established a legal institution for the Internet of specialized Internet legislation combined with other legislations, covering various law hierarchies and main areas of the Internet.

I. The current situation of the legislation of Internet law in China

On February 18, 1994, China promulgated its first legal document concerning the Internet -- Regulations of the Peoples Republic of China for Safety Protection of Computer Information Systems. The curtain was rung up on a new epoch in the formulation of Internet laws. China has since promulgated more than 200 laws, statutes and regulations as regarding the Internet, forming a system of Internet law covering cyber security, e-commerce, protection of personal information and online intellectual property rights:

1. Legislation protecting security of online information

To tackle the ever growing threats against network security, the Criminal Law (Articles 285, 286, 287) and the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Preserving Computer Network Security stipulates detailed penalties against purposely making or transmitting damaging programs such as computer viruses, and acts breaching network security, which include illegally intruding into or attacking computer systems and telecommunications networks. Illegal activities that do not constitute criminal offence shall receive administrative punishments according to the Law on Public Security Administration Punishments, Telecommunications Regulations, and Measures for Security Protection Administration of the International Networking of Computer Information Networks and Administration of Internet Information Services.

2. Legislation on e-commerce

In its Contract Law promulgated in 1999, China officially recognized the force of law of contracts concluded electronically. The Electronic Signature Law promulgated in 2004 has opened a new era in the formulation of Internet laws, effectively protected the security of online transactions, and laid a foundation for constructing a trust system in cyber society.

3. Legislation protecting personal privacy and information

In 2009, the seventh amendment to the Criminal Law defines the crime of selling, illegally obtaining and providing personal information. The PRC Tort Liability Law that took effect on July 1, 2010 clearly stipulates protection of citizens' rights to personal privacy. The self-discipline codes of the Internet industry regulates that Internet service providers shall adopt effective measures to protect users' privacy. In combination, these laws and regulations have formed a system to protect privacy and personal information with legal protection as the mainstay and industry self-discipline as the supplement.

4. Legislation protecting online intellectual property rights

To tackle the challenge posed by the Internet to intellectual property rights, China has amended the Copyright Law, made the Regulations on Computers Software Protection, Measures for the Administrative Protection of Internet Copyright, Regulation on the Protection of the Right to Network Dissemination of Information, and issued the Interpretation of the Supreme People's Court on Several Issues concerning the Laws Applicable to the Trial of Copyright Disputes Involving Computer Networks Interpretations, offering basic legal ground for protecting online intellectual rights. Regarding the administration of domain names, China has formulated a string of regulations, such as the Administration of Internet Domain Names, Measures on the Settlement of Chinese Domain Name Disputes, Provisions on Internet Domain Name Registration, Rules for CNNIC Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy and Interpretation of the Supreme People's Court on the Several Issues concerning the Application of Law to the Trial of Civil Dispute Cases Involving Computer Network Domain Names, offering basic legal ground for domain name registration, administration and dispute settlement, effectively balancing the interests between domain name owners and the holders of trademark right and other civil rights.

5. Legislation on access to the Internet market

To regulate competitions in the Internet market and cope with the needs of opening telecommunications industry to the outside world, China has successively promulgated the Administration of Approval of Network Access License of Telecommunications Terminals, Provisional Regulations on the Management of International Networking of Computer Information Networks, Regulations on the Administration of International Networking of Public Computers, Telecommunications Regulations and Administration of Business Sites of Internet Access Services, explicitly stipulating conditions for accessing the Internet and establishing network service enterprises. Moreover, China applies categorized licensing system to Internet information services. In line with the Administration of Internet Information Services Procedures, filing system is applied to non-profit Internet information services and prior approval system is applied to services concerning news, publication, education, healthcare, medicine, medical instruments and other fields.

6. Legislation ensuring the online safety of minors

To prevent illegal or harmful information, which includes pornographic or obscene information, from damaging the physical and mental health of minors, in 2004, the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate jointly promulgated the Interpretation of Several Issues on the Specific Application of Law in the Handling of Criminal Cases about Producing, Reproducing, Publishing, Selling and Disseminating Pornographic Electronic Information via the Internet, Mobile Communication Terminals and Sound Message Stations, stipulating that anyone who sell or disseminate pornographic electronic information to minors under the age of 18 shall be punished severely according to the law. On December 19, 2006, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress amended the Law of the People' Republic of China on the Protection of Minors, stipulating detailed measures to prevent minors from getting obsessed with the Internet or getting in contact with harmful information. In March 2010, the Ministry of Culture issued the Interim Measures on the Administration of Online Games, ruling that online games oriented to minors shall not contain any content that may induce minors to imitate activities against public morals and laws, or contain any horrific or cruel content that may damage the physical and mental health of minors. These laws and regulations build up a cyber environment that is conducive to the healthy development of minors.

The aforementioned laws and regulations provide basic legal ground for protecting the legitimate interests of citizens in cyber society and play an important role in safeguarding Internet information security and promoting advanced applications of the Internet. But we have also realized that, the international community is still continuously exploring the legislation needed in regulating the cyber society, which just emerged as a new societal pattern. Moreover, the results of legal research have failed to provide necessary theoretical support for the making of Internet law in China, and the country has yet to include Internet law in its legislative plan in the near future. Therefore, some stipulations in the present Internet law are too general; in particular, basic laws protecting cyber information security and individual rights to information is in absence.

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