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IPR pirates face tougher prison terms

Date:2012-12-08 11:11:34
Author:Du Liya and Yan Shuang
From:Global Times

A senior official vowed Monday that China would begin far harsher crackdowns on piracy and that even selling a few pirated items might land fraudsters in prison. This comes as publication authorities have readied an amendment law proposal on copyright protection. Liu Binjie, head of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), said during the 18th National Congress of the CPC that the draft law would double down on the protection of digital copyright. The amendment to China's Copyright Law will also enhance punitive measures for piracy, he said. For example, illegal vendors caught selling even just one or two pirated copies will be sentenced to jail, as compared to the 600 copies stipulated by current laws. "It is a good move to fight against piracy with legislative means, and the severe punishment can help reduce illegal sales of pirated copies," Zhao Hu, a copyright lawyer at the Beijing Hanzhuo Law Firm, told the Global Times. The GAPP established three drafts of the amendment and will submit it to the State Council later this year. The law has been the subject of public debate since the first draft was released in March. Several parts sparked controversy, especially those relating to the protection and compensation levels of copyright holders. Some musicians were displeased as they believed one of the articles in the draft allowed producers to use published musical works under certain conditions without having to obtain consent from the original copyright holder. Lu Jian, secretary-general of the Recording Works Council under the China Musicians Association, who strongly opposed some articles related to the music industry stipulated in the first draft, expressed his support for harsh punishments for piracy. "Pirated music has triggered rampant free downloads and there has been a blank in terms of digital copyright protection in the law for a long time," he said. Zhang Hongbo, secretary-general of the China Written Works Copyright Society, hailed the progress seen in the draft. "For example it says people helping others to carry out activities that infringe on copyright would be also held responsible, which helps this act as a threat to more people." The draft law has also raised the legal compensation standard for copyright holders from the previous maximum of 500,000 yuan ($80,250) to 1 million yuan. "It's good to see pirates facing heavier penalties, but the law should be focusing on online piracy, which is a more urgent issue given that the online spreading of pirated works has caused greater losses to writers and publishers," said Wang Guohua, a lawyer with the Writers' Rights League (WRL). The WRL, joined by writers and publishers alike in July 2011, lodged complaints about copyright violations by search engine Baidu's Wenku service and Apple's App Store, saying these had allowed the unauthorized downloads of hundreds of books. Bei Zhicheng, the group's spokesperson, said that alongside guilty individuals, large IT companies which give silent consent to piracy should face huge fiscal punishments rather than simply paying a fee to purchase the copyrights they infringed on. "Supervision over manufacturing and distribution should be further strengthened and public awareness of intellectual property rights protection should be ensured through more education and publicity," Zhao said.

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