Nov 28, 2009

A Beijing Court finds Youku.com of Infringement

October 26th, Youku.com, one of the most popular video sharing websites in China (as well as in the world), was found a series of copyright infringements by Haidian District People's Court in Beijing. The total damages for 47 movies (and that is 47 cases according to China's civil procedure) is 450,000 RMB (about 64,000 USD). One of those judgments is scanned and posted at here (Chinese) by some anonym (the official one may be published later).

Voole, the plaintiff of the cases, expressed its appreciation to the judgment. While the defendent's attorney reminds the press that that judgment may be overruled by the appellate court. Voole is an online VOD provider who claims being licensed the "right of communication through information networks" from the copyright owners.

Judgments are not binding to succedent cases in China, while it is very interesting to read the mind of the judge from the judgment. Here are some of my brief comments to it:

Firstly, the judgment obviously ignored that Youku is a video sharing website, namely a service provider. I am not saying the service providers would be exempt from liability per se, but at least the judgment should mention this and distinguish this from the direct infringement. 

Secondly, the judgement confirmed that even a work is not permitted by the State Copyright Office to distribute in China, it still enjoys the copyright protection. This again proved that Chinese courts do not interpret Article 4 of the Copyright Law literally. They limit the scope of "illegal works" that can not get copyright protection to the works with "bad" content. The procedure-illegal things are still protectable.

Thirdly, the amount of damages is based upon purely judge's discretion. I am not saying it is bad or good. I just wish to read more rationales on how does that amount is figured out.

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