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China’s copyright supervision in new digital industries (AI, livestreaming, e-com and video games) being tightened

As part of its plan to accelerate the building of a powerful IP economy, China is aiming to strengthen copyright protection in cyberspace and new business industries such as livestreaming, e-commerce, literature, video games. Tang Zhaozhi, an official from the copyright management bureau with the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said in November 2023 that “the tightened supervision aims to provide a sound environment for the high-quality development of copyright and stimulate cultural creativity".


In 2023, China’s administrative copyright departments have removed more than 250,000 pirated works and punished more than 40,000 online accounts involved in illegal copyright activity. The Copyright Management Bureau emphasised that online platforms must be responsible for supervising their platforms from copyright infringement. There are 371 copyright works that are currently on the bureau’s list of “prior protection” works – for these works, platforms have been tasked with building an early warning mechanism against infringements appearing.


Courts in China are proactive in developing solutions for the challenges brought by new technology. In November 2023, the Beijing Internet Court handed down a judgment of the first case regarding copyright relating to an AI-generated image in the "AI Wensheng Diagram" copyright case (2023) JING 0491 MIN CHU No.11279). The Judge recognised the “creativity” of the AI work and the effort of an individual human being and the need for such works to be “expressed in a certain form”. Although the image was generated by AI, the plaintiff configured the program by adjusting the “prompt words” and parameters, which shows the required involvement of human creativity. The Judge emphasised that, due to the complexity of AI technology, the creativity of images generated by AI should be recognised on a case-by-case basis. For those works generated by a pre-set-up and unmodified AI program, regardless of who inputs the data, the AI will always output the same results. In this situation, the human ‘author’ may not hold copyright over the work due to the lack of creativity.

Along with the accumulation of experience relevant to copyright protection in digital and new business industries, China has committed to continually improving the IP-related legal system by amending existing regulations and fully enforcing laws, stated the Copyright Management Bureau of China. In the future, China aims to give copyright holders a purer online environment and a more comprehensive protection mechanism for when works are infringed.

Authors: James Godefroy (Principal) and Annie Liang (IP Specialist), Rouse.


The State Council Information Office, P.R.C. (published 8 November 2023)


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