China Internet Courts Strengthen Protection of Digital Assets

With more than 800 million Internet users in China, the number of internet-related cases are on the rise as well. To handle those disputes, China opened the first Internet court in Hangzhou in 2017, followed by a second establishment in Beijing opened earlier this month. The Internet courts are said to “strengthen the online protection of digital assets, intellectual property, personal information, and business secrets as part of efforts to build a prosperous, orderly and safe cyberspace,” according to a news article on XinhuaNet, China’s state-run news agency. The Beijing Internet court is staffed with 10 highly experienced judges and accepts case submissions 24 hours a day.



The establishment of the Internet courts will further strengthen China’s effort in protecting digital assets and intellectual properties. China is often known as the country that neglects copyright protection. In an effort to change the impression, the authorities, as well as large online shopping platforms, have been actively shutting down and punishing counterfeit sales in recent years.

According to the South China Morning Post, in 2017, the government launched a four-month campaign to protect the IP rights of foreign businesses to alleviate foreign investors’ concern over copyright infringement. To solve the problem thoroughly, law enforcement were ordered not only to detain those selling counterfeits but also to track down people who produce the items or organize the counterfeit activity. Alibaba, the largest shopping website in China, has also been working closely with authorities to monitor and avoid counterfeit items being sold on its platform. Last year, the e-commerce company reported more than 5,000 cases on counterfeit sales.



Another continuing effort is the shutdown of online piracy content. With the awakening of copyright awareness and to protect their digital assets, major Internet content providers in China got together to fight copyright infringement. Backed by the government’s support, almost 4,000 websites and millions of videos were taken down in the past five years. Going parallel with the government’s effort in taking down piracy content is the shift in Chinese Internet users’ online streaming behavior: they are getting more used to paying for content. By February 2018, two of the largest video streaming platforms in China, Baidu-backed iQiyi and Tencent Video, have 60.1 million and 62.6 million paying subscribers, respectively.

As the intellectual property protection in China moves forward, the Internet environment will become more friendly to legit Internet content providers, especially foreign companies who have concerns before. They can feel more at ease when entering the China market now.