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  • Writer's pictureOliver Walsh

Country Focus: China

Updated: Jan 29

 A huge creative industries market


China is one of the largest content markets in the world. It is also unique in that there are China-only domestic distribution channels, a huge homegrown content world and limits on foreign content distribution in China.

Demand is often high by the world's largest internet user base of any country so foreign content owners do have to address the piracy issue. Many of the IP issues are intertwined with market access restrictions.

Copyright law and enforcement mechanisms


China has a developed Copyright law, last amended in 2021. Some amendments included a huge statutory damages rise, TPM protections, and a version of the Three Step test for exceptions and limitations. China recognises secondary liability for copyright infringement by ISPs.

A major concern is the inadequate protection for music recordings, given the widespread use of short video platforms in China. Other relevant concerns include the term of copyright protection in China is still 50 years, not 70 years. and that current TMP rules do not prevent the trade in circumvention devices or components, enabling China’s manufacture of devices to enable copyright theft.


China’s unique piracy environment


China faces both common and unique piracy issues such as unauthorized camcording, journal, and article distribution. Alongside that, numerous mini video-on-demand (VOD) platforms (some even as theatres) show illegal audiovisual content.

Unauthorised electronic game file sharing is a significant challenge, as is business software infringement. Game cloning, that is, copying of elements of video games, is a much complained about issue.

Book and journal piracy in academia is always raised as a concern (whether sharing articles, cracking or TPM circumvention such as selling and sharing logins).

The widespread availability of pirated music is another problem, along with unauthorised business and even government software. 


Many issues have an international dimension.  Most illicit streaming devices (ISDs) for China and worldwide export are exclusively made in the electronics factories of southern China, leading to a global IPTV piracy problem. 

Digital piracy occurs through cyberlockers, piracy cloud storage, social media and apps and is often linked to foreign piracy networks, especially now Russian ones. Exports of pirated books, CDs, and preloaded USB devices become a global problem.


Enforcement mechanisms


China has a highly developed court system with thousands of copyright cases annually across the country.

The National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) takes administrative actions against some online services that facilitate piracy, as do local equivalents. The police also undertake many copyright raids nationwide, but the problem is one of size.


Anti-piracy challenges


Some challenges include the continued use of criminal thresholds which prevent cases with insufficient obvious high volumes of evidence proceeding. There are always difficulties in court evidence processes especially for copyright subsistence and ownership proof.

Repeat infringers demonstrate a lack of deterrence, especially in administrative enforcement. Periodic campaigns have an impact, but the volume of content, illegal websites and other issues is a constant battle.

IP owners ask for more resources and capability at the NCAC, local Copyright Administrations and Law and Cultural Enforcement Administrations, as well as improving cooperation between NCAC, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and ISPs. ISP liability remains a concern.

The volume challenge for notice & takedown systems and the reticence of some short video-sharing platforms to quickly remove illegal content are common online piracy complaints. The lack of enforcement over copyrighted content is often at odds with the control of other illegal content.


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