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13 Oct 2018

China Enforces Copyrights on Reposted Content: 13 Portals Interviewed

On 16 July 2018, the National Copyright Administration of China (“NCAC”), the Cyberspace Administration of China, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security and other departments formally initiated “Sword Net 2018” to rectify copyright issues relating to content reposting, short videos and other key areas (e.g., cartoons, live webcasts) within approximately four months. “Sword Net 2018” is part of an annual multi-departmental rectification campaign intended to crack down on network copyright infringement and privacy issues. Since it was first initiated in 2005, the Sword Net Campaign has been conducted annually for 14 consecutive years.

As a part of “Sword Net 2018”, the NCAC has begun rectifying copyright issues relating to reposting. On 29 September 2018, in response to the most prominent issues uncovered through the rectification efforts, the NCAC interviewed 13 portals in Beijing: WeChat, Toutiao, Qutoutiao, Baidu, Tencent, NetEase, Sohu.com, Sina.com, Tao News, Yidianzixun, Mini Eastday, Btime.com and ifeng.com. During the interviews, the NCAC reiterated the need to adhere to the copyright principle of “authorization before use”, and imposed guidelines and requirements for reposting-related copyright issues on portal users and portals that host platforms for users to repost online content.

Requirements on Users Who Repost

For Weibo, WeChat official accounts, Toutiaohao and other “We-Media”, the NCAC focused on investigating and punishing infringement such as unauthorized reposting, extracting, compiling and integrating, distorting and tampering with news-related works, and plagiarizing, tampering with and editing original works through “draft laundering”. Illegal Weibo accounts, WeChat official accounts, Toutiaohao accounts, Baijiahao accounts and other official user accounts uncovered during the campaign will be banned, closed or subject to other sanctions.

The NCAC has expressly requested that users who repost must:

  • Not repost others’ works without authorization;
  • Indicate the author and source of works and not misrepresent or tamper with titles and the original meaning of works when reposting; and
  • Actively cooperate with copyright owners and relevant copyright organizations to improve authorization and licensing mechanisms.

Requirements on Portals

News websites, news aggregator Apps and other portals that host reposting platforms may be subject to sanctions, which may include the closure of websites or website channels, for assisting or inducing users to engage in illegal content reposting, or for failing to adopt reasonable regulatory measures. 

The NCAC has expressly requested that portals that host reposting platforms must:

  • Strengthen user administration, and remind users in a conspicuous area of the platform about complying with copyright laws and refraining from reposting content in violation of the law;
  • Adopt effective measures to prevent users from reposting content, laundering drafts, or engaging in conduct that violates the law;
  • Not encourage users to repost content and not repost content under a fake username through misuse of the “safe harbor” rule[1];
  • Adopt punitive and regulatory measures for repeat offenders, such as blacklisting, or suspending or terminating services;
  • Actively comply with legal “notice-and-takedown” obligations, and improve channels for reporting copyright violations;
  • Handle infringement notices in a timely manner, and promptly remove infringing works or disable links to infringing content; and
  • Strengthen copyright review of content subject to key protection by the copyright authorities[2], handle in a timely manner and report evidence of infringement, and provide necessary cooperation. 

After this investigation and interviewing stage of Sword Net 2018, the NCAC has indicated that it will next carry out a crackdown on reposting-related copyright infringement, as well as facilitating cooperation among network platforms, copyright owners and organizations in an effort to explore a mode of reposting authorization that satisfies the demand for network use and the rules for communication.

 


  1. The PRC Copyright Law and relevant regulations provides for a “safe harbor” for portals who are not aware and should not be aware of users’ illegal acts; portals that do not qualify for “safe harbor” treatment will be jointly liable for user infringement.
  2. From time to time, the NCAC will designate content that is subject to “key protection” on its official website, see http://www.ncac.gov.cn/chinacopyright/channels/483.html.
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