New Development of Digital Copyright Protection in China – The Landmark Case of Zheng Chengsi v. Shusheng
European Intellectual Property Review, Vol. 28, p. 299, May 2006
6 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2011 Last revised: 8 Apr 2012
Date Written: May 1, 2006
Zheng Chengsi v. Shusheng Digital Technology Co Ltd (the “Shusheng case”) is fated to become a landmark case in the copyright history of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC” or “China”). Even when the Shusheng case was just decided by the court of first instance and still pending appeal, it was elected by media as one of the top 10 IP cases of 2004 in the PRC.
One may think that it was because the participants of this case virtually constitute a “dream team” in PRC IP circles. For example, one of the presiding judges was the “model judge” Song Yushui, who has long been well known throughout the PRC for her integrity and professionalism. More interestingly, the seven plaintiffs were all highly respected IP scholars in the PRC, headed by Professor Zheng Chengsi. As many readers are aware, Zheng Chengsi is commonly regarded as the ultimate authority of intellectual property law in the PRC and was recently elected by an English journal Managing Intellectual Property as one of 50 IP’s most important figures in the world. Notwithstanding the above, the importance of the Shusheng case apparently lies more in the various policy implications that it brings forward to the Chinese public, e.g. whether copyright law has become obsolete in the digital age, whether the exclusive rights of authors should be compromised to provide for the free flow of content through the internet, and what it takes to achieve the delicate balance between the legitimate interests of authors, distributors and end-users. As an attempt to answer those questions, this comment argues that the key to fostering the development of information industries, especially online publishing, is to reinforce copyright protection in cyberspace and in doing so preserve the ultimate source of creative and useful content for the public.
The next two sections of this comment begin with an introduction of the facts and holdings of the Shusheng case. The fourth to seventh sections briefly discuss the major policy controversies arising from the Shusheng case, including the legal nature of a digital library, the transactional costs of copyright law, the practicality of the “authorization offer” and the appropriate level of copyright protection in China. The final section summarises the main points of this comment and presents several overall recommendations.
Keywords: Copyright, Digital Library
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