Fighting copyright infringement a constant battle
Updated: 2016-04-26 15:35
By Liu Wei(chinadaily.com.cn)
A picture illustration shows a WeChat app icon in Beijing, December 5, 2013. [Photot/Agencies]
China is trying to deal with copyright infringement on the internet while embracing its convenience where everyone can be a news carrier or a story teller.
The Supreme People's Court data released on April 21 showed that 149,238 intellectual property infringement cases were filed and 142,077 cases were dealt with, up 11.49 percent and 11.76 percent respectively compared to previous year.
Four days before the release of the data, The Beijing News published a story revealing chain hotels using hazardous cleanser to wash sheets. The reporter went undercover and spent a month working on the story.
The report raised wide attention. However, the next day, The Beijing News found that at least 163 websites had reposted the story without asking their permission.
And it's not a one-off case.
Gonglushangdian, or Roadstore, a media outlet that focuses on rock and roll, tatoos, cult film, etc., regularly carries many original stories.
It has a website as well as official accounts on social media network such as Sina Weibo and WeChat. Over 20,000 people follow their account on Sina Weibo, and nearly every story sees over 30,000 to 100,000 hits on its WeChat account.
This small media outlet has gradually attracted attention and their stories have been re-posted by other platforms or other accounts without permission and even without credit.
In December 2015, Roadstore condemned many website and platforms, including the big ones, and many WeChat accounts for violating its intellectual property rights.
According to the company, 21 stories have been reposted without their permission over thousands of times by hundreds of platforms, even mainstream ones.
WeChat, the most popular social network platform in China, is the worst-hit area where anyone can create an official account to pass information as a media outlet.
According to reports from Xinhua in 2015, thousands of official accounts repost popular stories without permission and credit.
Many official accounts illegally repost others' articles and then apologized later, which became a common occurrence on WeChat.
Wang Xiaolei, a book reviewer, is one of the victims of copyright infringement, said Xinhua reports.
Another registered user created an account similar to Wang's and reposted every article of Wang without asking his permission.
An internet analysis organization Penguin Intelligence said that WeChat official accounts that steal all the popular stories are able to win more followers easily than that produce original works, said Xinhua.
The copycat accounts can easily have over a million followers while original accounts usually have about 100,000 fans on average.
The numerous followers mean potential economic benefits. The copycats' wide audience is appealing to advertisers who pay anywhere from hundreds of yuan to 50,000 yuan, according to Xinhua.
WeChat had issued a regulation on intellectual property right infringement in April 2014 saying any repost without permission will be deleted and the accounts of repeat offenders will be blocked.
But it's not easy. According to Xinhua report, the action taken on copyright infringement is far from satisfactory.
Tang Yong, founder of a well-known WeChat account Shitu, summed up his fight against the copycats as "some wine, small money and an apology". He said the violators didn't take the problem seriously and tried to buy him wine or pay some money to kill the problems when he challenged them.
But WeChat has taken steps to address the problem. In February 2015, it launched a new function where users can tag their story as "original" and when others repost it, the system will automatically show the original tag.
It is a step on the way to protect the intellectual property right.
Yan Xiaohong, deputy director of the copyright administration, said on April 19 it is difficult to enforce intellectual property rights on social media sites such as WeChat.
He said judicial authorities need to adapt the regulation and laws to new technologies rapidly.
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