China enacts Internet copyright regulation

Internet pirates will face fines of up to 100,000 renminbi (US$12,500) for unauthorized use of copyrighted material on the Internet under a new Chinese regulation.

From July 1, uploading or downloading copyrighted material from the Internet requires the copyright holder’s permission, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Monday. Using, producing, or importing devices capable of evading copyright protection is also banned under the regulation.

The new edict continues recent tough talk from the Chinese government on piracy and copyright violations. Industry groups such as the Business Software Alliance (BSA), Motion Picture Association (MPA), and Recording Industry Association of America have pressured China for years to improve its dismal record on pirated software and media.

The BSA estimated that in 2005, 86 percent of all software used in China was pirated, with the MPA projecting that 95 percent of all films watched on optical media are pirated.

Whether the new regulation will be backed by enforcement remains to be seen. “As badly needed as this regulation is, there is serious question as to whether the government will be able to enforce this in any meaningful way,” said David Wolf, chief executive officer of Wolf Group Asia, a Beijing-based technology consultancy. “The sheer scale of the copyright violation problem on the Internet in China could support a massive enforcement bureaucracy that I’m not certain the government is prepared to resource.”

Last week, Chinese President Hu Jintao called for a new national intellectual property rights strategy.

“Only by doing so can China improve its innovation capability, adapt to the socialist market economy and the international environment,” Hu said according to Xinhua.

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