Earlier this month I had the pleasure of visiting China for the second time in my role as Director of Copyright and Enforcement for the Intellectual Property Office. As always, the IPO China team kept me busy, with my delegation covering four cities in five days. It was a rewarding trip and I would like to share some of my reflections on the Chinese copyright and enforcement systems.
China’s copyright law
As director of copyright I am used to promoting the UK creative industries and seeing the impact of UK content all around the world. But its popularity was particularly noticeable in China. During my visit my Chinese counterparts mentioned their enjoyment of British programmes like Downton Abbey and Sherlock. At one event I was even asked about groups such as Westlife and Blue, and their involvement with UK collecting societies.
All of these references as well as my interactions with UK businesses highlight the importance of effective copyright laws in China to protect UK content. I was pleased to see the efforts that China is making to improve its Copyright Law. The UK is keen to support the Chinese reforms. Over the past year and during this trip I met many times with the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC). I shared the UK experience of collective licensing, extended collective licensing, the artist’s resale right, orphan works, broadcasting and copyright enforcement. On this visit, through technical exchanges, project seminars and interactive events I engaged with over 700 policy makers and other copyright influencers including academics and senior executives in creative industries companies.
The Copyright Licensing Agency took part in several events alongside the IPO and said:
It was a privilege to take part in UK China Copyright week and explore with the IPO, NCAC and Chinese CMOs how collective licensing may be developed in China. CLA entered into a licensing agreement with its counterpart, CWWCS, in 2014 and we continue to offer them training and support. We are also encouraged to see such detailed interest from CMOs in how best collective licensing might work in China. We look forward to seeing collective licensing develop in China, for the benefit of both rights holders and users, and feel positive that discussion is progressing in the right direction.
And our engagement with the NCAC is providing a key reference as they continue to reform their system. We held detailed policy workshops covering topics such as:
- how the UK’s Copyright Tribunal can provide a model for a new licensing tariff dispute mechanism in the Chinese copyright reforms
- criteria for extended collective licensing and the importance of a rights owner opt-out
- licensing-based orphan works schemes
Other international rights holders and representatives were also present and benefitted from the week of activities. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said:
We would like to thank the UK IPO for its support during UK-China Copyright Week. It has been a wonderful opportunity for the music industry to raise the critical issue of the introduction of full broadcasting and public performance rights in China. These rights are a global standard of protection for producers and performers and their introduction would benefit the music industry in both countries and facilitate trade in sound recordings between the two nations.
Enforcement with Chinese characteristics
My Chinese counterparts were also interested in discussing enforcement and I highlighted the work the UK has done to work with advertisers to limit advertising on infringing websites. China is now looking at similar measures based on the UK approach that will stop advertising revenues flowing to websites that support copyright piracy. I shared information on other successful UK approaches to online enforcement including targeting payment service providers and our support for the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit.
I was interested to discuss some of these topics with e-commerce giant Alibaba. They are working to reduce the amount of counterfeit products sold on their various platforms. At their offices in Hangzhou I also heard more about the agreement that the IPO is supporting between Alibaba and the China Britain Business Council (CBBC) to help UK businesses access online enforcement mechanisms on Alibaba. UK businesses will have a chance to interact with Alibaba representatives during the UK-China Intellectual Property (IP) Symposium on 21 October 2015, where Alibaba will give a keynote speech.
The final city in my whistle-stop tour was Hong Kong. Copyright is undergoing significant changes here too and I continued my discussions with a wide range of businesses, rights holder organisations, lawyers, the Hong Kong Intellectual Property Department (HKIPD) and Hong Kong Customs & Excise. Throughout the progression of the Hong Kong Copyright Bill, the UK has worked with HKIPD to ensure that the bill works for UK and Hong Kong creative content owners and discussions covered a very wide range of topics.
The issue of the international sale of set top boxes was again highlighted in Hong Kong and the IPO will continue its work to review mechanisms to control the illegal use of these boxes to infringe copyright
Throughout the team’s interactions in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hong Kong I was excited by the interest and high activity levels around IP. As China sees the benefit of a stronger intellectual property regime for domestic businesses, UK businesses will also reap the benefits. I hope that this will be the first of many visits to China and that our dialogue will continue to reflect the needs and wishes of UK businesses.