Technological Advancement’s Effects on Copyright


In this modern age of technology, it is very easy to access any information we so desire. However, this brave new digital world brings just as much danger as it does pleasure.

Whether it be accessing E-books on a tablet, listening to music on a phone or watching movies on a computer, the notion of copyright comes into question. All too often people are so caught up in how simple it can be to watch any movie, read any book or listen to any song, that they fail to realise they could be infringing on an artist’s copyright. Is the cost of this new world of free information our Intellectual Property Rights?

The Internet can be a treasure trove for free information and social networking but the cold hard reality is that the ability to access the Internet anytime, anywhere and at a greater speed than ever before, brings with it certain dangers and risks. Take for example the use of the program BitTorrent on the Internet. To the uninitiated, BitTorrent is a very useful tool which allows you to easily and quickly download or upload large amounts of data.

On this basis, there is nothing wrong with the use of BitTorrent and it breaks no laws; it simply acts as a means to move files (e.g.) uploading your work for others to read/critique etc. However, generally speaking, this is not how BitTorrent is commonly used by web users. Many users of the BitTorrent program commonly employ its functions in order to upload/download the latest movies/books/music/applications, etc. After a quick search and a few clicks, users of a BitTorrent program are violating the copyrights of artists all from the comfort of their own home.

The ease of access and simple procedure are what is most alarming about this trend, as few people feel like they are doing anything wrong, much less breaking any laws. The websites hosting the torrent files all look and seem like any other on the Internet they would use for services or social networking. However, many of the owners of these websites in Hong Kong, Finland, Sweden etc. have seen their day in court for copyright infringements. Although China does not criminalise copyright infringement which is not for profit, it is important to understand that it is still illegal.

There are difficulties with the enforcement of protection of Intellectual Property Rights in China, namely the sheer size of the country, as well as Intellectual Property Rights being a relatively new principle in the country, where intellectual property laws were first drafted in 1982; the case law and precedents make for a slim read at best.

In recent years, the landscape for Intellectual Property rights in the People’s Republic has very much been homogenised. China has already signed, and is bound by, the provisions contained in the Berne Convention, as well as The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property, which are both international treaties on Intellectual Property Rights that guarantee standards for basic copyright regulations.

Under these provisions, all artists are automatically entitled to the works which they produce in that they are not required to register their copyright. However, in order to avoid disputes as to ownership of the works, it is advisable to register a copyright nevertheless. The copyright term is the life of the author plus 50 years, but for cinematographic and photographic works plus works created by a company or organisation, the term is 50 years after first publication. The legal provisions are of an international standard, therefore the legislature is not responsible.

The overarching problem is not the laws protecting copyrights in China; it is users who are oblivious, or alternatively, uneducated, as to the fact that they are actively violating copyrights should they upload/download content without the authors express permission.

This article is intended solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Although the information in this article was obtained from reliable official sources, no guarantee is made with regard to its accuracy and completeness. For more information please visit or WeChat: dandreapartners.
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Legal columnist Carlo D’Andrea is Chair of the Legal & Competition Working group of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China; Shanghai Chapter, Coordinator of the Nanjing Working Group of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China and has taught Chinese law (commercial and contractual) at Rome 3 University. 法律作家代开乐担任中国欧盟商会上海分会法律与竞争工作组主席,中国意大利商会劳动集团的协调员与曾经在罗马三大担任企业咨询课程中中国商法、合同法的课程教授。

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