Washington International Law Journal


Yiman Zhang


While enjoying the tremendous economic benefit brought by the Internet to the nation, China has been attempting to update its intellectual property law to address online copyright infringement issues. The current legal framework, which premises copyright liability upon a direct infringement and joint liability theory, unfortunately has produced considerable ambiguity both within the judiciary and the affected industries. As shown in recent cases, the theory of joint liability, in addition to the broad scope of Chinese copyright law, has been particularly troublesome for China’s technology industry. Given China’s priority in technology innovation, its current copyright law has too low a threshold for liability on the part of Internet service and technology providers. To better facilitate its national technology development strategy, Chinese copyright law should redefine the balance between copyright protection and encouraging technology innovation. It needs to establish safe harbors to technology providers from the broad statutory rights enjoyed by copyright holders. More importantly, a secondary liability theory that requires a higher-than-negligence degree of culpability will provide a better legal platform for online copyright adjudication.

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