One Area Where China Should Definitely Stop Ripping Off The West: Copyright Law

from the repeating-our-mistakes dept

When it comes to ACTA and TPP, China is the elephant in the room — or maybe that should be the dragon in the room. For without China’s participation, these treaties designed to reduce counterfeiting will have little effect. And despite rather desperate optimism on the part of some that China will rush to sign up, its comments so far suggest otherwise.

A crucial factor here is China’s own copyright framework, since this will inevitably color its perception of the terms of any treaty that it might sign. That makes the outcome of a planned third revision of its copyright laws highly pertinent to the fate of treaties like ACTA and TPP. A paper reviewing the current proposals, written by Hong Xue, Director of the Institute for Internet Policy & Law at Beijing Normal University, provides some valuable insights into the likely evolution of China’s copyright law. Unfortunately, the signs are not good:

the Draft fails to review several misconceptions, such as “the more the better” (more copyright protection and enforcement, the better economic growth and social development), “one size fits all” and “modeling on US law” (on draconic enforcement rather than general and robust limitations and exceptions). It is unfortunately that China, the largest country by both population and Internet users, despite its fast-growing economy, seems keeping on the old track and missing the opportunities to revamp its Copyright Law in the new century.

In the area of limitations and exceptions, the latest draft makes things worse than today’s rules:

According to the [current] Copyright Law, anyone may use a work for personal study, research and appreciation. The Draft, however, restrict the scope of private use to “making one copy of a work for personal study and research.” It is annoying to exclude from the private use personal “appreciation”, which is inherently hard to distinct from personal study and research, particularly on the Internet. It is even more worrisome to restrict private use to reproduction of a work. Under the Copyright Law, use of a work may include reproduction, translation, adaptation (such as remix or sampling), as far as the use is private. The Draft, however, only allows for reproduction and restricts to one copy.

That’s crazy at a time when more and more people are using digital content in new ways that include precisely these things like remixing, sampling and adapting.

There’s also bad news on the DRM front, which seems closely modeled on the US DMCA:

The biggest defect in this regard is that the Draft fails to address whether technological measures may be circumvented for the specified circumstances of limitations and exceptions to rights. For example, it is unclear under the Draft whether a user may circumvent a copy-protection measure on a work so as to make a single copy of work for personal study or research.

That’s clearly a crucial issue. If circumvention is not allowed, then once again DRM can effectively take away what few rights users are granted in this area.

Finally, China also appears to be following the US in bringing in harsher copyright enforcement and disproportionate damages:

Copyright enforcement is tremendously enhanced under the Draft. Regarding civil remedies, damages could be several times of licensing fees if right holder’s actual loss and infringer’s illegal gains cannot be determined.

All-in-all, it looks like China has learned nothing from the West’s mistakes. Instead, it seems to have taken the misguided view that if the West did it, China must do the same to “catch up”. As the paper quoted above emphasizes, this is only a draft, and can still be modified. But based on what it already contains and the fact that organizing resistance against new laws in China is not the easiest of tasks, it looks increasingly likely that China too will be entering a period of copyright maximalism, with all the negative consequences for the Chinese public — and possibly the world — that this implies.

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Comments on “One Area Where China Should Definitely Stop Ripping Off The West: Copyright Law”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I’m reminded of something a well-known comedian once said of Chinese restaurants: the waiter will happily promise you anything you ask for and then bring you exactly what they want you to have.

I have worked for Chinese-owned electronics companies both large and small. In my experience, they consider themselves honourable and exercise a very different set of ethics to so-called westerners.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Copyright law is a product? That aside, a lot of the support for stronger IP law is because China and its association with counterfeit production is often cited as a reason. China mimicking the flaws of existing law won’t make things better; at best it’ll piss off a billion people and discourage them from following laws you want respected. This is nothing to do with what anyone, let alone someone, wants you do to with their product

If you want to troll, do it in a thread that holds a little relevance.

OObservation says:


It is toooo bad that Americans have ever had to suffer all the crap that has come from China. America would definitely be stronger in a lot of ways if we had never had to trade with China. America would be GREAT STILL if we would have sent everyone who outsourced to China for cheaper labor to China, to stay there.

Anon says:

Do you guys really think that the chinese will enforce copyrights for foreign properties ??
Dont get me wrong with that.
China actually benefits a lot of copying and stealing other countries ideas, and intellectual properties.

While some folks in the US said that Intellectual properties is the biggest US’s export, in China, and trust me, ive been there, stealing intellectual properties from other is their biggest and most valuable business plan !

alternatives() says:

Not learned behaviour, but controlled behavior.

All-in-all, it looks like China has learned nothing from the West’s mistakes. Instead, it seems to have taken the misguided view that if the West did it, China must do the same to “catch up”.

Rhetorically China is ‘communist’.

Reality – China’s governmental officials are under the same level of control as other government officials in other nations are under the control of large corporations. With similar masters, similar outcomes.

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