By Emma House, Director of Publisher Relations
The PA was privileged to have been part of the recent UK-China Copyright Week in China in which the publishing industry played a key role in a series of activities led by Dr Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright and Enforcement of the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO).
The timing could not have been better, not only for the interests of the UK Government and broader UK business but indeed for The PA's own activities in China, and also to grasp the changes taking place in China - especially around legislation to control the Internet.
The week was curated by Tom Duke, the UK's IP attaché to China, with Ros accompanied by Peter Ratcliffe, Head of the City of London's Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU). The overall purpose was to share common issues on copyright and enforcement between China and the UK. The PA together with the International Publishers Copyright Coalition (IPCC) took part in meetings with the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) and the Beijing Cultural Enforcement Department (CED) - which has recently expanded its responsibilities to include online copyright enforcement. We were able to articulate the problems UK publishers face with copyright infringement in China, discuss the status of the legal cases we have ongoing against three sites supplying illegal member content, and discuss the need to work closely with the major Chinese platforms - BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent). Peter introduced the work of PIPCU and described the processes and powers it has to tackle copyright infringement. PIPCU's work on Operation Creative and in developing an Infringing Website List to encourage advertisers to abstain from funding the sites on the list was of great interest.
In the 15th UK-China IP Salon focusing on Women in IP, Ros Lynch sat alongside Judge Rui Songyan from the Beijing IP Court which has heard an astounding 10,000 cases so far in 2016, mainly from Chinese rights holders - meaning that copyright infringement is now a national cause for concern rather than simply a matter for international rights holders.
The highlight of the week was the signing of an MOU between the IPCC and Baidu (Chinese equivalent of Google) on copyright protection. The MOU demonstrates progress with a platform notorious for being challenging to work with in this space. The MOU includes a commitment to a 'Green Channel' - a fast track, trusted partner channel for publishers to report infringements on the platform - as well as a plan to develop a dual Chinese/English language platform allowing foreign rights holders to report infringements.
The final event that the PA participated in was a round table workshop with the legal team of Alibaba and Taobao which has recently hired an ex-prosecutor and Apple exec to head its global enforcement team. Publishers took the opportunity to outline the piracy problems it faced with online platforms in China as well as obstacles faced working with Alibaba on copyright protection. The Alibaba team outlined the steps it had taken so far, and was planning to help rights holders expedite reporting of infringements and the follow up from the platform. It was evident they were taking the matter seriously and encouraged publishers to sign up for their copyright infringement reporting platforms.
Looking at the bigger picture of the online/internet space in China, it is evident that the current President, Xi Jingping, has immediate plans to impose stronger control with an 'Internet Plus Policy'. A variety of draft and final legislation has been introduced in China this year including regulations on online publishing, a new e-commerce law, and a draft law on domain name registration. Only last week news came that the Apple iBooks and iMovies stores had been closed down in China, with no clear reports on the reasoning behind this. There is certainly more legislation to come. The common theme of all of these laws is the interpretation of them and understanding how they impact publishers. The EU delegation in China and the U.K. Embassy are looking closely at these matters, with The PA liaising closely with both on their findings.
It's an uncertain future for foreign publishers in China with the new regulations coming in; however, we can be encouraged by the receptiveness of the enforcement agencies and online platforms with regard to taking copyright infringement seriously. Right now, we are extremely fortunate to have our team on the ground - Tom Duke to champion our industry and gain the focus of those in power to work and collaborate with us, and Hugo Zhang of RELX Group to unite the publishing industry and push forward the constructive work of the International Publishers Copyright Coalition. With the PA locked into both networks we can reflect member concerns and influence the policy and enforcement agenda of the UK publishing industry in what is one of our key export markets.