China's Newly Revised Copyright Law

On November 11th, 2020, the National People Congress, during the 23rd Meeting of the Standing Committee, released the amended version of the Copyright Law of the PRC. 

The amended Copyright Law will take effect on June 1, 2021, and it represents the third major update to China’s copyright statute that was enacted in 1990 and amended respectively in 2001 and 2010. 

The most relevant provisions of the newly amended law are surely related to strengthening IP enforcement and increasing damages for copyright infringement in order to protect copyrights and copyright-related rights.

Some other adjustments in expression were made in the law, including changing "citizens" to "natural persons" and "other organizations" to "unincorporated organizations" to make the amended copyright law more consistent with other civil laws in expression.

Moreover, the amendment adds that the authorities shall have the power to inquire of the parties concerned, investigate illegal acts, conduct on-site inspections, consult and copy relevant materials and seal up and detain relevant places and goods during investigations.

It also states that the reproductions of infringements should be destroyed upon the request of the obligees other than in exceptional cases.

Here in detail, some of the main changes: 

  • Definition of “work”: a different formulation of the term “work” has been adopted in order to give it a wider and less narrowed definition, and it is defined as “it refers to intellectual achievements that are original and can be expressed in certain forms in the fields of literature, arts and science”
  • Fair use: Amended article 24 now provides that a copyrighted work may be used without the author’s permission in certain enumerated cases, provided that the use “shall not affect the normal use of the work, nor shall it reasonably damage the legitimate rights and interests of the copyright owner”.
  • Technological protection measures: in order to protect copyright and copyright related rights, the copyright holder may take technological protection measures referred in this law as “effective technologies, devices, or components used to prevent or restrict the browsing or appreciation of copyrighted works without the permission of the copyright holder”.Without the permission of the copyright holder, no organization or individual may intentionally avoid or damage the technological protection measures.
  • Damages for infringement: consistent with recent changes to China’s intellectual property regime, the amendment bring significant changes on Article 54 providing and higher ceiling for statutory damages (up to 5 million RMB) and setting a new minimum (not less than 500 RMB). Additionally, it adds one to five times of ordinary damages as punitive damages imposed on serious deliberate infringements.