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China Pledges Extra Protection to Artists
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The traditional definition of copyright alone cannot protect artists' rights on their soundtracks, images and performances in the age of the Net, officials have said, detailing for the first time the methods of doing so.

Speaking at a recent symposium, Assistant Director-General of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Wang Binying said the right of an artist was an important part of intellectual property rights (IPR), and hence should be protected properly.

The fame some people enjoy makes protecting their rights all the more important for society, she said at the WIPO Asia-Pacific Regional Symposium on Performers' Rights in the Digital Network Environment, held in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday.

National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) Deputy Director Yan Xiaohong told the symposium that the country had made great progress in protecting artists' rights.

Regulations have been tightened and shown results. Enforcement can still be improved, though, he said.

In fact, domestic laws offer greater protection to singers and performers than the two most important international Net copyright regulations, the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). The country's laws not only protect artists' recorded works, but also their images and performances.

Officials feel the most effective way to protect their rights is to have closer international collaboration, support more professional associations and to continue to raise public awareness.

Inter-governmental collaboration is needed because more often than not a popular website in one country is powered by servers based in another.

Wang said law enforcement was a challenge for all the countries.

And Yan said he felt professional associations could ensure collective protection to individual artists.

So far, only two professional associations have been formed in China: Music Copyright Society of China and China Audio & Video Collective Administration. Three more are likely to be formed this year, Yan said, adding that the government had promised greater support to such bodies.

Campaigns to raise awareness should ensure that artists take more self-protective action.

China this year will devise a national IPR strategy, or action program, to improve law-enforcement, Yan said.

The country enacted its first copyright law in 1990, and revised it in 2001. And the Regulations on Protection of the Right of Dissemination on Information Networks were implemented on July 1, 2006.

In December 2006, the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, the top legislative body, approved the signing of WCT and WPPT by China. WIPO Deputy Director Narendra K. Sabharwal spoke highly of China's decision to join the two international treaties, especially because by the end of 2006, the country had 140 million Internet users, second only to the US.

Although officials didn't want to cite figures of IPR related court cases, they pointed a case as an example of China's progress: the copyright dispute over a folk song, Chanty of Wusuli.

Singer Guo Song lost his copyright claim over the song when the Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court ruled that he and the televised concert sponsor have to state clearly that it had been adapted from a song owned by the Hezhe people, an ethnic minority group that lives along the Heilongjiang River in Northeast China.

(China Daily February 9, 2007)

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