Copyright Protection: a special case

A special case: the law is lagging behind the progress of technology?



Judge Li

This is a 1999 case.

The plaintiffs are six well-known Chinese writers. 

The defendant is a .com company operating a commercial website. 

In April 1998, the defendant uploaded some novels of six plaintiffs onto its website without their permissions and put a copyright notice saying “Copyright Reserved” at the bottom of every webpage. 

The novels could be freely browsed and downloaded by anyone visiting the defendant’s website.

The plaintiff sued the defendant for copyright infringement. 

The defendant argued that the law didn’t say online distribution was copyright infringement.

The court held that the difference in the means of communications doesn’t affect the right of copyright owners to control such communications because the law doesn’t close the possibility of other ways by which works might be exploited, so the copyright infringement is established.

The problem in this case is that the court have to say which exclusive right listed in the law is in line with disseminating a work online because the law doesn’t provide a general right of communication to the public or describe a test to determine whether certain acts constitute infringement.

There is a special “the like” in the Article 10(5) of the 1990’s Copyright Law:

The right of exploitation and the right to remuneration, that is, the right of exploiting one's work by reproduction, live performance, broadcasting, exhibition, distribution, making cinematographic, television or video production, adaptation, translation, annotation, compilation and the like, and the right of authorizing others to exploit one's work by the above-mentioned means and of receiving remuneration therefore.


Translated Decisions: