China to draft new copyright laws this year

The Chinese government is planning a major revamp of laws and regulations that protect intellectual property rights (IPR), according to a plan outlined this week by China’s National IPR Protection Working Group Office.

Under the government’s plan, 17 laws and regulations governing IPR protection will be drafted or revised during the coming year. These measures will address IPR issues related to trademarks, copyrights, patents and customs protection, according to the plan.

In addition, the government will revise six judicial decisions in a bid to strengthen IPR protection, it said.

IPR protection has long been a source of friction in Sino-U.S. relations. Software and music piracy is widespread in China. According to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), 90 percent of software used in China is pirated. That figure puts China third, behind Vietnam and Ukraine, on a list of countries with the highest piracy rate, BSA said.

Another area of concern is movies. Pirated DVDs, including the latest Hollywood blockbusters and Western TV shows, are widely available in China. The Motion Picture Association (MPA), an industry group, estimated that movie studios lost US$2.7 billion due to movie piracy in China during 2005. The group said the piracy rate of movies in China was “unacceptably high” at 93 percent.

During early 2005, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) conducted a review of Chinese government efforts to increase IPR protection. While USTR noted progress in some areas, the results of the review were not encouraging. “There has not been a significant reduction in IPR infringements throughout China,” USTR said in a report issued at the conclusion of that review.

“China’s inadequate IPR enforcement is resulting in infringement levels at 90 percent or above for virtually every form of intellectual property,” the report said.

As a result, USTR placed China on its Priority Watch List for IPR violations and invoked a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement that requires China to provide documentation on some aspects of its IPR enforcement efforts.

Whether China’s latest efforts to overhaul its IPR laws and regulations will reduce piracy in the country remains to be seen. As USTR noted in its report, China had previously made “satisfactory progress” in developing laws to protect intellectual property. The problem has been putting them into action.

“Enforcement continues to be seriously inadequate,” USTR said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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