China takes tougher stance on online pirated content

The interpretation could make Chinese Internet firms more liable for unlicensed content on their sites

China's Internet firms will need to better screen their websites for unlicensed digital works or be held responsible for infringement, according to a proposed judicial interpretation from the country's supreme court.

The court on Sunday released the proposed interpretation of China's Internet infringement laws, taking a stricter stance on how websites can be held liable for promoting unlicensed copyrighted works such as movies, music, and books.

Under the interpretation, companies can be held liable if the unlicensed works are recommended to users in certain ways. This could include the unlicensed work being featured on a company site that ranks content based on popularity, or if an infringing product is promoted through a description and link.

Liability can also be determined if companies knowingly allowed users to upload unlicensed content. A court can look at what measures the company took to stop the infringement, as well as what safeguards are already in place to prevent further unlicensed works from being uploaded.

In the past, companies have complained China's safe harbor policies have shielded Internet firms from facing the legal consequences of their users uploading pirated digital content to their sites, said Zhao Zhanling, a legal expert on the country's IT laws. While companies often comply and delete the content, users can easily change their accounts and re-upload the unlicensed content over and over again, he said.

"People have felt Chinese Internet firms are abusing the safe harbor principles," Zhao said. "But now if a link to the unlicensed work is found on a company website's top ten list for users, the company will be liable for it."

Under the judicial interpretation, companies have one work day to remove unlicensed videos from their websites, once formally notified of the infringement by the license holders. Other unlicensed works must be removed in five work days.

The judicial interpretation comes as some Chinese companies have stepped up effort to remove unlicensed content from their websites. The country's largest search engine, Baidu, had previously been accused of promoting illegal music downloads through its websites. But last year, the company signed an agreement with major record companies to buy licenses for their songs. Baidu did not respond to a request for comment.

Youku, one of China's largest online video sites, said the company already adheres to strict procedures to prevent unlicensed content from being uploaded, or to remove it. "We have been compliant with international standards for a long time, so we don't think this will have an impact at all," said company spokeswoman Jean Shao.

China's supreme court has asked the public to respond to the recommendations by June 1, before they are finalized.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?