While raising doubts over China’s intellectual property (IP) laws and practices, the United States should not ignore the progress Beijing has made in those areas. For example, guaranteeing full protection to IP rights online is a difficult task, yet the government has taken measures to address the problem and make remarkable progress in this regard.
According to a China Internet Network Information Center report, by the end of last year China had about 731 million Internet users and the total value of Internet copyrights exceeded 560 billion yuan ($85 billion). But online piracy, too, has grown with the Internet industry, harming the protection of IP rights online. Piracy is the most serious online copyright violation, because of the low costs and low risks involved, and the high profits it can fetch.
This year’s China Network Intellectual Property Development Report indicates that the country’s core online copyright industry increased 31.3 percentage points last year compared with 2015, with the online game industry being worth 180 billion yuan, online literature 10 billion yuan, and online videos 5.21 billion yuan. But for online piracy, these figures could have been bigger.
Data from iResearch Consulting Group show that in 2015 and 2016, piracy caused losses of 7.97 billion yuan and 7.98 billion respectively to the online literature sector. The paid-for mobile-reading sector was worth 4.36 billion yuan and 5.02 billion in 2015 and 2016 respectively. There is little doubt that China, despite some drawbacks in its IP laws and practices, has made tremendous efforts to protect IP rights online.
Since 2005, government departments, such as the National Copyright Administration and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, have been leading a campaign called Sword Net to combat online piracy in literature, music, videos and games.
As a result, many websites involved in IP piracy have been shut down. And because of the increasing awareness of IP protection, establishing a foolproof system for protecting online copyright has become an important task for the government, for which it has implemented more comprehensive laws.
Besides, to combat piracy and protect new media’s copyrights, 10 mainstream media outlets and websites formed an association at the National Conference on Copyright Protection in Digital Environment in April.
The association is expected to play an active role in managing copyrights, making rules and negotiating prices, and thus help its members protect their legitimate rights.
The National Copyright Administration directly supervises more than 3,000 websites, including Baidu, Youku and 18 other influential video platforms, to ensure they closely monitor the content published.
Moreover, due to strengthened IP protection, more online video copyright owners are getting their share of payment. And this year’s Global Music Report issued by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said the digital music sector markedly increased in scale last year to hit 15 billion yuan.
Strengthened online copyright protection has also facilitated technological and cultural innovations and creations, a new driver of economic growth.
As such, better IP rights protection will boost the mobile Internet, the Internet of Things and other related sectors, including artificial intelligence, and help China to become a stronger Internet economy.
The author is a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization and a researcher at the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China.