Why Chinese Version of Copyright Law & Fair Use is Different

Since China became a signatory to the Berne Convention in 1992 and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 2001, the copyright laws of this country is in line with the United States of America and other developed countries. But China has no equivalent to the American doctrine of “fair use,” which stipulates that you can reproduce a copyrighted work without permission if it falls under a range of excepted categories, such as parody or educational materials.

There is no denying that one could easily find pirated copies of DVDs, CDs and books in the Chinese market. Although the trend has dwindled a lot over the last couple of years but it is not because of the Chinese authority’s effort to curb the evil practice of piracy, it’s because the market has moved to the Internet. China is trying to deal with copyright infringement on the internet while embracing its convenience where everyone can be a news carrier or a storyteller.

For years, Foreign governments are urging China to take a stronger stand against pervasive violations of intellectual property rights on products ranging from medicines to software to DVD movies sold on the street. Mega Chinese companies such as Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent are taking this issue seriously and fighting legal cases regarding copyright infringement. Taking this into account, Chinese authorities are also joining the effort to fight counterfeit and copyright related matters. In spite of all these commendable efforts, copyright infringement is still a major problem that hasn’t been removed entirely.

Most of the young people watch American TV shows, such as Friends and the Big Bang Theory ( it is one of the first American shows to strike a deal with Chinese video streaming companies). There aren’t really any legitimate places to buy these things, so you have to go to the street dealers.

Article 22 of China’s Copyright Law-

Any invention or utility model for which patent right may be granted must possess novelty, inventiveness and practical applicability.

“Novelty” means that, before the date of filing, no identical invention or utility model has been publicly disclosed in publications in the country or abroad or has been publicly used or made known to the public by any other means in the country, nor has any other person filed previously with the patent office an application which described the identical invention or utility model and was published after the said date of filing.

“Inventiveness” means that, as compared with the technology existing before the date of filing the invention has prominent substantive features and represents a notable progress and that the utility model has substantive features and represents progress.

“Practical Applicability” means that the invention or utility model can be made or used and can produce effective results.

With the growing value of the copyrighted material in Chinese market, it is paramount for the foreign businesses to take a broader view of IP protection in this country. Licensing TV shows in China is a lucrative business. In order to make sure you are making best return from your investment take legal action when you find another media company using your copyrighted material.

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