Clearer copyright rules urged

Updated: Aug 5, 2019 By CAO YIN China Daily Print
Students at Yiwu Industrial and Commercial College promote their creative works during a livestream broadcast at a fair in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, in April. LYU BIN/FOR CHINA DAILY

Short video apps' review loopholes targeted as industry booms

Intellectual property and law professionals have called for China to clarify who is responsible for reviewing content on online short video apps by amending the Copyright Law to further protect IP rights.

The latest China Statistical Report on Internet Development, issued by the China Internet Network Information Center in February, said the online short video platform industry boomed last year, with the number of users reaching 648 million by the end of the year.

As short video smartphone apps, including Douyin and Kuaishou, enrich people's daily lives, "plagiarism caused by the platforms' review loopholes are also harming copyright," said Zhu Wei, an associate law professor at China University of Political Science and Law.

To prevent online works from being plagiarized and build a healthier industry environment, "ordering short video apps to strictly review content on their platforms, I think, is urgent and necessary," he said.

Compared with other platforms offering online services, short video apps had a new function that allowed them to classify uploaded works and suggest works in line with users' preferences, Zhu said, meaning they "have the ability to differentiate content on their platforms".

"To be more precise, the apps can do more things than other platforms," he said. "For example, the apps know what content should be posted, when to post it and what users are the targets."

Previously, online service platform operators often complained that it was difficult to review what content was being uploaded, but the short video apps' new function had resolved that issue, he said.

Meanwhile, some popular short video apps had made use of advanced technologies, such as big data and artificial intelligence, to help review online works, which meant some content that was obviously copied could be found more easily, he said.

"If these apps still escape the liability review in this way, more copyrights may be infringed and the industry will not develop healthily," Zhu said.

Liu Xiaohai, an IP professor at Tongji University in Shanghai, agreed with Zhu and said China should clarify and regulate the apps' review liabilities by revising the Copyright Law as soon as possible.

Legislators could add an article in the law, asking short video platform operators to take technical measures to filter uploaded works to further reduce infringements spreading online, Liu said.

"The technology investment may bring an extra financial cost for the app operators, but their gains in the operation should offset the cost," he said.

In addition, the short video platforms should also improve reporting systems, such as putting a complaint button on the apps' front pages to enhance users' legal awareness of the need to safeguard copyright, he added.

In recent years, China has strengthened efforts to protect online copyrights through lawsuits and administrative measures.

In April, for example, the Haidian District People's Court in Beijing ruled on a copyright lawsuit in favor of Toutiao, an online news portal, after finding a cross-talk show on its platform was broadcasting on iQiyi.com, an online streaming media site.

The court identified iQiyi's infringement as using Toutiao's work without its permission, and ordered the defendant to pay 34,000 yuan ($4,900) in compensation.

In September, the National Copyright Administration launched a campaign against online infringements on short video platforms. In the crackdown, 140,000 accounts were closed or downgraded, while 570,000 copied short videos were removed.

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