Beijing IP Court Rules on Copyright Protection for Sports Broadcasts

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According to a recent posting on the Weixin account of IPHouse (结案信息 ┃ 北京知识产权法院审结涉及体育赛事节目的两起著作权侵权纠纷案, March 30, 2018), the Beijing IP Court has now decided the second instance appeals of two cases involving online piracy of sports broadcasts, an issue that is important to the development of China’s professional sports, as well as Olympic broadcasters and foreign leagues with large Chinese audiences, such as the National Basketball Association.

Most Chinese academics have been in agreement that live broadcasts (including webcasts) of professional sports broadcasts need to have some form of IP-related protection, whether under the Anti-unfair Competition Law, as a subject of the Copyright Law, or as a form of “neighboring rights” under China’s Europe-inspired copyright system.   During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the broadcasts of the Olympic games also enjoyed a form of sui generis protection against piracy – an issue that I had been involved with along with rightsholders at that time.  The controversies surrounding the consequences of each form of possible protection were detailed in an article in 2010 by Prof. Seagull Song,  as well as a more article by Wei Liu and  Jiarui Liu (“Copyright Protection of Sports Programs in China,” 63 Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA (2017)).  It has also been the subject of meetings and conferences hosted by the United States and others, experts dialogues and numerous blogs posted here, including a blog on the lower court case posted on here.

Copyright protection would afford address interactive streaming over the internet, while neighboring rights protection affords rights to broadcasters.  Many believed that unfair competition was too vague and could create difficulties in licensing internationally.  These issues were raised in the context of the long-overdue, proposed amendments to China’s Copyright Law.  For these reasons, the 2013 US-China Experts Dialogue, in particular, made the following recommendation:

“4.3 Live Sports Programming and Non-interactive Streaming

The experts unanimously agreed that when the production of live sports programming involves creativity and originality, it shall be protected under current China Copyright Law.  The experts supported the provisions of the latest available amendment of the Copyright Law which provides a bifurcated approach – the adoption of “broadcast rights” to give protection to non-interactive streaming media and the right of communication through information networks to protect interactive streaming media. This approach should provide greater flexibility and depth to the protection of the copyright.”

Delays in resolving these two cases were understandable in light of the uncertainty around the proposed amendments to the copyright law, the significance of these issues to numerous rightsholders and sporting events, the increasing importance of licensing revenue in the China market using international copyright standards,  the impact on Chinese rightsholders that may be pursuing cases overseas where copyright protection is more secure, and the role of copyright protection in providing a foundation for a diversity of revenue streams in order to provide greater stability to the beneficiaries of the system (see the “Jordan” store that has recently opened up in Beijing, above).

In the Sina case, which was the subject of my previous blog, the lower court had determined after some exhaustive analysis that the live broadcast of a sporting event constituted a cinematographic “work” under China’s copyright law.  The Beijing High Court reversed noting that cinematographic works have to be fixed/stable and creative.  In the case in suit, the production had not been stable and fixed in a material form and therefore did not constitute a cinematographic work.  Moreover, as Sina did not pursue the anti-unfair competition claim on appeal, the Court had no basis to adjudicate that claim to provide an alternative avenue of relief for it.

In the companion case involving CCTV and its recorded broadcasts of the Brazilian World Cup (2014), CCTV had advocated that the broadcast constituted either a cinematographic work or an audiovisual recording (entitled to neighboring rights protection).  The lower court had determined that it was entitled to be considered an AV recording and had awarded 670,000 RMB in damages.  The Beijing IP Court confirmed that it was also entitled to protection as an AV recording which is protected over information networks in part because it was stable and fixed on a physical medium and, as with the prior case, it was not sufficiently creative to be a cinematographic work.  The court however increased the damage award to 4,000,000 RMB.

Based on this summary, the cases seem to leave open the question of whether AV recording protection afforded as a “neighboring right” to a broadcaster, also permits the broadcast to claim infringement for a live/interactive retransmission of the broadcast over the internet, which was not a fact at issue in this case.  Broadcasting organizations do enjoy neighboring rights protection under Article 44 of the Copyright Law.   However, this neighboring rights protection most directly addresses wired and wireless retransmission of the signal, rather than interactive communication over the Internet (See article by Seagull Song, and quote above).  Moreover, this was exactly the problem that was faced by the Beijing Copyright Administration in the 2008 Olympics when it enacted short-term, sui generis rules to address this problem.  I hope that the full case will explain this further.

Article 41 of the PRC Copyright Law grants the owner of video recordings the right to distribute the recordings over an information network.  The court could have resolved the issue of the stability/fixation of the broadcasts in both cases by acknowledging any momentary delay in broadcasting and consequent fixation in real time broadcasting as a “recording” (see video of editing at an NFL game, below).  Moreover, the level of creativity being required of a cinematographic work seems unduly high, particularly when compared to comparably lower levels of creativity required of photographic works, as well as the professional editing, narration and script line that goes into any professional broadcast, along with the copyright attributable to various elements of the broadcast, such as the narration, mid-game performances, etc.  Thus, these cases do not fully address protection for the less controversial creative aspects of professional sports broadcasts.  Due to the temporal value of a live sports broadcast, it is also important that rights are clearly defined in advance, a task for which local case law developments are ill-suited under China’s system, and that must apparently wait until legislative reform.  The Beijing IP Court did use the tool of enhancing damages to help address the need for greater deterrence, however it appears on the substance of copyrightability, its hands were tied by current legislation.

I welcome any further analyses, and postings of the Chinese and/or English texts of the case that may help further clarify these decisions and their impact.

 

IPR Outcomes in the 26th JCCT

Here are the IP outcomes of the 26th Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, concluded early in November 2015 in Guangzhou.  The IP-related outcomes appear primarily in three different places in the JCCT outcome document, under “Competition”, “Intellectual Property Rights” and “Cooperative Dialogues and Exchanges.”

I have repeated below the outcome language in full, without the annotation that appears in the US Department of Commerce release on the subject, followed by my own “references” on the outcome to compare the text with recent developments in these areas.

The Chinese government version of the outcomes follows the US outcomes.

COMPETITION

China’s anti-monopoly enforcement agencies are to conduct enforcement according to the Anti-monopoly Law and are to be free from intervention by other agencies.

China clarifies that commercial secrets obtained in the process of Anti-monopoly Law enforcement are protected as required under the Anti-monopoly Law and shall not be disclosed to other agencies or third parties, except with a waiver of confidentiality by the submitting party or under circumstances as defined by law.

Taking into account the pro-competitive effects of intellectual property, China attaches great importance to maintaining coherence in the rules related to IPR in the context of the Anti-monopoly Law. China clarifies that any State Council Anti-monopoly Law Commission guidelines will apply to the three anti-monopoly law enforcement agencies.

The Chinese side clarifies that in the process of formulating guidance related to intellectual property rights in the context of anti-monopoly law, it will solicit comments from relevant parties, including the public, in accordance with law and policy.

References: SAIC’s IP Abuse rules, NDRC’s draft IP Abuse rules. Importantly, this outcome specifically recognizes the pro-competitive nature of promoting IP. As I said in my comments on the NDRC’s IP abuse guideline questionnaire, “Rather than seek to minimize IP rights through euphemisms such as “balance” perhaps a better approach would be how to optimize the patent system to foster long term innovation and competition and insure that the competition system supports and does not retard such development.”

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

Standards and Intellectual Property

The United States and China affirm the beneficial role of standards in promoting innovation, efficiency, and public health and safety, and the need to strike an appropriate balance of interests of multiple stakeholders.

The United States and China commit that licensing commitments for patents in voluntary standards are made voluntarily and without government involvement in negotiations over such commitments, except as otherwise provided by legally binding measures.

The United States confirms that Chinese firms participate in the setting of voluntary consensus standards in the United States on a non-discriminatory basis, consistent with the rules and procedures of the relevant standards organizations. China welcomes U.S.-invested firms in China to participate in the development of national recommendatory and social organization standards in China on a non-discriminatory basis.

With a view to enhance mutual understanding and trust, the United States and China agree to hold dialogues over issues under this topic.

Here are some other blogs on this important topic.

Trade Secrets

The United States and China are committed to providing a strong trade secrets protection regime that promotes innovation and encourages fair competition.  China clarifies it is in the process of amending the Anti-Unfair Competition Law; intends to issue model or guiding court cases; and intends to clarify rules on preliminary injunctions, evidence preservation orders and damages. The United States confirms that draft legislation proposed to establish a federal civil cause of action for trade secrets misappropriation has been introduced in relevant committees. Both sides confirm that IP-related investigations, including on trade secrets, are conducted in a prudent and cautious manner.  The United States and China agree to jointly share experiences and practices in the areas of protecting trade secrets from disclosure during investigations and in court proceedings, and identify practices that companies may undertake to protect trade secrets from misappropriation in accordance with respective laws.

References: Note that the reference in the trade secret provision to a degree mirrors that of the Competition outcome, regarding protecting confidential information in administrative proceedings. Proposed revisions to the AUCL were previously discussed here.

Geographical Indications (GIs)

The United States and China will continue our dialogue on GIs. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of the 2014 JCCT commitment on GIs and confirmed that this commitment applies to all GIs, including those protected pursuant to international agreements. China will publish in draft form for public comment, and expects to do so by the end of 2016, procedures that provide the opportunity for a third party to cancel already-granted GIs.

Reference: This commitment builds on the 2014 GI commitment in the JCCT. An important case involving enforcement of a trademark based GI for scotch whisky is discussed here.

Sports Broadcasts

The United States and China agree to protect original recordings of the images, or sound and images, of live events, including sports broadcasts, against acts of unauthorized exploitation, including the unauthorized retransmission of such broadcasts over computer networks, in accordance with their respective laws and regulations.  The United States and China agree to discuss copyright protection for sports broadcasts and further cooperate on this issue in the JCCT IPR Working Group and other appropriate bilateral fora.

References: Copyright protection for sports broadcasting has been discussed elsewhere in this blog, and is of increasing important to China as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics and wants to develop its sports leagues. In addition US courts have granted copyright protection to Chinese sports broadcasts in a recent case. Tencent has also signed an important licensing deal with the NBA to make content available online.

Enhanced Enforcement Against Media Boxes and Unauthorized Content Providers

Noting the challenges posed by new technologies to the protection of copyright, China and the United States will continue discussions and share respective experiences and practices on combating the unauthorized online distribution of audiovisual content made possible by media boxes.  China clarifies it is to enhance enforcement against such media boxes and the providers of unauthorized content in accordance with its laws and regulations.

Reference: A recent US media box case involving Chinese content is discussed here.

Online Enforcement

In order to address the civil, administrative and criminal enforcement challenges caused by the rapid development of e-commerce, as part of the JCCT IPR Working Group, China and the United States will enhance engagement and exchanges between U.S. and Chinese government IPR policy and enforcement officials, IP right holders, business representatives and online sales-platform operators, among other relevant stakeholders.  This engagement will cover current and anticipated challenges in protecting and enforcing IPR online by sharing respective practices, discussing possible improvements in each country’s systems, facilitating information exchange and training between our two countries, and increasing cooperation on cross-border enforcement.  The goal of this effort is to enhance existing legal and cooperative regimes among businesses, rights holders and governments in civil, administrative and criminal online IPR enforcement.  Appropriate criminal matters will be referred, if necessary, to law enforcement agencies through the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) IP Criminal Enforcement Working Group or domestic law enforcement officials.

References: there have been numerous Chinese domestic efforts to deal with on-line infringement, including copyright-related campaigns, and an important role for Chinese Customs.

COOPERATIVE DIALOGUES AND EXCHANGES

Searchable Database for Intellectual Property (IP) Cases

The United States welcomes that the Supreme People’s Court has established a database for searching intellectual property-related court decisions.  In order to increase the understanding of each other’s legal systems, the United States and China agree to dialogue and to share experiences on their respective databases containing IP cases.

References: Whether or not China is developing “case law with Chinese characteristics,” understanding how Chinese courts handle cases can help guide sound business decisions.

Bad Faith Trademark Filings

Given the importance of addressing bad faith trademark filings, both sides agree to continue to prioritize the issue of bad faith trademark filings, and to strengthen communication and exchange on this issue through existing channels.

References: This is a continuation of earlier efforts.

Copyright Legislation

The United States and China are to continue exchanges on the development of their respective copyright laws.  China clarifies that its Copyright Law is in the process of amendment and useful principles and interpretative guidance from the Supreme People Court’s 2012 Judicial Interpretation on Internet Intermediary Liability will be considered in the law, if appropriate and feasible.

The final judicial interpretation is available here. Here is a blog on the 2014 State Council draft of the Copyright Law revision, and a blog on a 2012 NCA draft.

Exchange on Intellectual Property Rights Legislation

Recognizing the success and experience of recent exchanges on IP legislation through the JCCT IPR Working Group, programs under the Cooperation Framework Agreement and other fora, as well as the desire of the United States and China to further understand recent developments in this area, the United States and China agree to exchange views on their legislative developments in IP and innovation including on pending reforms in copyright law, patent law, trade secret law (anti-unfair competition law), science and technology achievement law, etc., with relevant legislative bodies.

References: This is a broad commitment, with much legislative activity planned in China in areas such as trade secrets, copyright, patents and related regulations.

Protection of New Plant Varieties

The United States and China agree to hold exchanges on the protection of new plant varieties through bilateral meetings and other means to be determined.

References: China and Switzerland agreed to extend plant variety protections in the Swiss-China FTA.

Here are the outcomes involving IP fromon the Chinese side, from the MofCOM website(http://www.mofcom.gov.cn/article/i/jyjl/l/201512/20151201200026.shtml).  I have translated the title of the outcome only.

“特别301”报告 SPECIAL 301 REPORT

美方重申其承诺,将在“特别301报告”中客观、公正、善意地评价包括中国在内的外国政府,在知识产权保护和执法方面付出的努力。美方欢迎旨在加强中国知识产权保护的改革和行动,并承诺在2016年“特别301报告”中将强调中国政府在知识产权保护和执法方面采取的积极行动。

 恶名市场 NOTORIOUS MARKETS

美方重申其承诺,如果适当,将在“恶名市场”名单中客观、公正、善意地评估和认可外国实体,包括中国实体,在知识产权保护和执法方面付出的努力和取得的成绩。美方计划在2016年通过将利益相关方的异议期延长一倍,继续增加程序的透明度。美方将继续与中方就此事项进行讨论。

 

知识产权有效和平衡保护 EFFECTIVE AND BALANCED IP PROTECTION

考虑到《与贸易有关的知识产权协定》的原则和目标,美方和中方将继续就诸如有助于保护创新者免于恶意诉讼的相关政策进行交流和沟通,为创新行为提供积极环境。

 

知识产权合作 IP COOPERATION

中美双方确认知识产权保护在中美双边经贸关系中的关键作用。双方承认合作的益处,并认可合作构成了双方知识产权交流的基础,承诺进一步加强重要领域的深入合作,包括:

进一步加强中美商贸联委会知识产权工作组作为牵头协调知识产权问题双边论坛的作用。

继续高度重视中美知识产权合作框架协议的工作,包括2016年司法交流和将在中国举办的一项培训项目;在完成并对现有承诺项目进行审查后,在预算允许的前提下,考虑在框架协议下增加其他项目。

支持中国商务部在2016年第一季度举办的技术许可联合研讨会。

其他项目将根据个案原则进行组织。双方认识到中美双方,特别是美方,与一系列从事知识产权培训和技术交流的机构和私人组织合作,实施了广泛的项目策划工作。

 

加强在打击网络盗版方面的合作  STRENGTHENED COOPERATION IN DEALING WITH ONLINE PIRACY

为应对在美国涉嫌网络盗版刑事侵权案件影响中国权利人的情况,中美执法联合联络小组下设的知识产权刑事执法合作工作组在美国驻华使馆的联系人将负责接收中方行政部门转交的此类信息。

 

通过中美双边合作加强知识产权在企业中的利用和保护 USING BILATERAL COOPERATION TO STRENGTHEN IP UTILIZATION AND PROTECTION IN ENTERPRISES

认识到双边贸易与投资持续增长的情况,中美双方同意加强合作与交流,就各自国家知识产权保护和利用有关的经验数据进行研究,并在此领域采取具体行动或举办项目,以协助中美关于鼓励创新的决策,并帮助中美创新者、创造者和企业家更好地理解如何在各自国家创造、保护和利用知识产权。

 

深化和加强中美知识产权刑事执法合作 DEEPENING CRIMINAL ENFORCEMENT COOPERATION IN IP

在中美执法联合联络小组下设的知识产权刑事执法合作工作组机制项下,中美将继续就跨国知识产权调查开展合作。双方将确定共同合作的重点案件,就此类案件保持定期沟通和信息分享,并探索在共同感兴趣的领域开展技术交流的机会。

 …

中美共同打击网络销售假药 JOINT SINO-US COMBATTING OF ONLINE COUNTERFEIT MEDICINE SALES

中美两国政府都非常重视打击网络销售假药以保障公共的用药安全和健康。两国食品药品监管机构之间已就打击网络销售假药开展合作,并承诺未来继续开展合作。这种合作包括分享信息、分享提高公众对网络销售药品认知的最佳实践以及加强在现有国际组织活动中的沟通与协调。

Updated: December 2 and 3,  2015

 

Beijing Court Grants Copyright Protection to Live Sports Broadcast

 

In a very positive development for Chinese football sports leagues, CCTV, Tencent, NBA,  as well as Olympic and other international sports competitions in China,  the Chaoyang basic level court in Beijing determined on June 30 that live broadcasting of a sports competition is sufficiently creative to be protectable under China’s copyright law in Sina v. iFeng(2014)朝民(知)初字第40334号). The case can be found here in Chinese.   The key language of the case with my very  informal translation is as follows:

新浪互联公司在本案中提出,涉案转播的赛事呈现的画面应受到我国著作权法保护的作品范畴。依照法律规定,具有独创性并能以某种有形形式复制的智力成果,才可构成我国著作权法所保护的作品。是否具有独创性,成为本院判断涉案赛事转播画面是否构成作品的关键。独创性意指独立创作且不具有对他人作品的模仿、抄袭。

In the present case the Internet company Sina raised an issue involving the presentation of broadcast screens (pictures) and their status as works under the copyright law. In accordance with the law, protected works must be original intellectual achievements that can be replicated in some tangible form. The key factor for this court in determining whether the broadcast of a live competition was original is the broadcast screen.   Originality means independently created, which is to say that it does not imitate the work of others or is a copy.
从赛事的转播、制作的整体层面上看,赛事的转播、制作是通过设置不确定的数台或数十台或数几十台固定的、不固定的录制设备作为基础进行拍摄录制,形成用户、观众看到的最终画面,但固定的机位并不代表形成固定的画面。用户看到的画面,与赛事现场并不完全一致、也非完全同步。这说明了其转播的制作程序,不仅仅包括对赛事的录制…

In broadcasting a competitive event, from the point of view of the overall production, the event broadcast and record production involves shooting by setting several or several dozens of  unfixed or fixed recording equipment as the basis to film and record to a final picture for the user or audience to see the final picture.  However a fixed position does not mean a fixed picture.  The picture that the user sees is not completely the same as taking place on the field, and it does not proceed completely or fully synchronized. This explains that the broadcast production process is not just a record of events, …

就此,尽管法律上没有规定独创性的标准,但应当认为对赛事录制镜头的选择、编排,形成可供观赏的新的画面,无疑是一种创作性劳动,且该创作性从不同的选择、不同的制作,会产生不同的画面效果恰恰反映了其独创性。即赛事录制形成的画面,构成我国著作权法对作品独创性的要求,应当认定为作品。从涉案转播赛事呈现的画面看,满足上述分析的创造性,即通过摄制、制作的方式,形成画面,以视听的形式给人以视觉感应、效果,构成作品。

In this regard, although there is no provision on legal standards of originality, but it should be understood that the choice of lens for recording events, editing, a new screen for viewing the picture, is undoubtedly a creative work, and the creation of different options and different productions, will produce a different picture of the effect that  precisely reflects its originality. The formation of the picture of the sporting event constitute originality under the Copyright Law of China and should be recognized as a work. From the perspective of this case, the picture screens presented satisfy the requirements of originality not only in their filming and production, but also in the auditory and visual style which thereby gives a final result of audio and visual sensations, thereby constituting a work.

The case may be appealed to the Beijing IP Court.  Damages of 500,000 RMB were assessed, plus costs and an injunction.

Update from August 6, 2015:  here’s the case in English language translation.

Update from March 11, 2016: Here’s a link to an article on a proposal by an official from Le TV to the NPC and CPCC on protecting copyright in sports broadcasts. The focus of the proposal is to strengthen sports competition intellectual property protection and promote the healthy development of China’s sports industries (“加强体育赛事知识产权保护 促进我国体育产业健康发展”). The first element of the proposal is to adopt the international standard of using copyright law to protect sports broadcasts as a “work”, which the author notes is available under US copyright law and has been recognized by nearly all European countries, according to a study from the University of Amsterdam (See Section 1.4.1).

How creative is the professional sports broadcast to merit copyright protection.  The video below from an NFL game gives some indication of what is involved.    (updated September 1, 2016 with this video).

The NBA and Its Continuing Trademark Battles

The July 9 issue of the SIPO Newspaper/ Trademark Weekly (http://www.tmweek.com/yw_list_danye.asp?newsid=1624) reports that Nike and Kobe Bryant are involved in the latest skirmish with an alleged trademark squatter.  A natural person in Fujian person has applied for a mark in class 18 for “科比 KB-KOBE” and obtained a registration against the opposition of Nike.  Nike asserted before the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board  that the mark infringed Kobe Bryant’s personality rights (rights to the name), and was in bad faith, and has since appealed the matter to the Beijing Number 1 Intermediate Court. Continue reading