China Amends Copyright Law

China recently amended its Copyright Law to prepare for its entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) to better protect both foreign and Chinese copyright holders’ legal rights.

The amendments extend the scope of the law to involve more subjects, including acrobatic performances, architectural designs and literary and artistic works published via the Internet.

Copyright laws in China under the new amendments now prescribe tougher penalties for copyright infringement that includes legal measures not previously listed as copyright protections under the Civil Procedure Law. For example, anyone who infringes on a copyright may be required to pay damages of 500,000 yuan (US$60,485) when damages cannot be calculated. Copyright holders or other right holders concerned also may apply to a people's court to order a stop to alleged copyright violations even before a hearing begins.

Zhang Ping, associate professor of law with Peking University, said that 53 out of the 56 stipulations of the original copyright law were revised and that the amended law now has 60 clauses.

Wang Huapeng, an official with the National Copyright Administration of China said that the amendments cover changes to the legal rights and responsibilities of copyright holders, and collective administration of copyrights. Collective administration of copyrights can efficiently facilitate the identification of copyright holders and payments of copyright fees. Statistics show that the Chinese Writers Association helped its members to get some three million yuan (US$362,911) in copyright fees in 2000. The amended law features regulations relating to on-line copyright protections.

Wang said that the amendments greatly reduce differences between China's copyright laws and the international conventions on copyright protection, and the WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Sources said that the amended copyright law guarantees equal protection to foreign and Chinese copyright holders and is expected to promote the development of patented products in international and Chinese markets.

A number of relevant departments are now drafting rules and establishing institutions to facilitate the smooth implementation of the amended copyright law. Copyright protection institutions and agencies in various fields are now emerging in China.

China's first Copyright Law, issued in 1990 and implemented in 1991, greatly facilitated the protection of copyrights of literary, art and scientific works. However, recent changes in the international environment and China's fast development made further revisions necessary.

In a move to embrace international property rights rules, China acceded to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1984 and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in 1992.

Zheng Chengsi, a member of the National People's Congress Law Committee, said that it takes about 10 years for China to formulate copyright protection laws and regulations, much shorter than it takes in foreign countries.

Xu Jialu, vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, said that the revised law can better coordinate the relationship among copyright holders, users of copyrighted products and the public, as well as meet various international treaties, especially the WTO requirements.

Shi Zongyuan, director of the National Copyright Administration, said that the Chinese people's awareness of the need for copyright protection needs to be improved.

There are still some problems with China's protection of copyright, which should not be overlooked.

For example, pirated books, video products and computer software have run rampant in recent years despite the government's harsh crackdowns on them.

One reason is that the price of authentic products is too high for average consumers. Vast demand has stimulated many pirates to challenge the law.

While fighting relentlessly against pirates, the government and enterprises need to make protected products affordable to common people.

Likewise, the perfection of the copyright law system hinges not only on sophisticated legislation, but also on the efforts of law enforcers as well as every user of intellectual products.

(Reports from Xinhua News Agency and China NPC News, edited and translated for by Chen Chao November 16, 2001)

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