New rules to fight online pirates
By Wang Xin (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-16

SAIC: Stronger powers in cross-regional cases and collection of evidence

The State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) is set to release new regulations to fight the sale of counterfeits on the Internet, a senior official said at a news conference during the National People's Congress that ended on Monday.

Two new regulations will govern cross-regional investigation and collection of evidence in online piracy and counterfeits, said Fu Shuangjian, SAIC vice-minister.

Authorities are now studying the issue and preparing the final draft, Fu said, declining to reveal details.

The vice-minister said online transactions in China are now worth more than 500 billion yuan ($76.1 billion) with 13 million people doing business over the Internet.

China's first ministry-level regulation on online transactions by the SAIC took effect in July last year, spelling out provisions for website establishment, operation and supervision.

Not civil disputes

Li Li, vice-secretary-general of the Shanghai Information Law Association, wrote on his blog that "the existing regulation provides grounds for administrative punishment more than anything else" and is not designed to settle civil disputes.

After it implemented the regulation last year, the SAIC began to encounter problems with cross-regional management and collection of digital evidence.

There is now an urgent need for relevant new regulations, Fu said.

Police nationwide investigated more than 5,400 intellectual property rights (IPR) cases - both online and in general society - valued at 4.5 billion yuan since last November, according to Meng Qingfeng, director-general of the Ministry of Public Security's Economic Crime Investigation Bureau.

Of those investigations, just 183 were from the Internet, but they carried a large value - some 500 million yuan, more than 10 percent of the total, Meng said.

In addition to new online regulations, revision of milestone laws governing trademarks and copyrights is also on the table for consideration by the State Council.

The nation's first trademark law was adopted in 1982, followed by the first copyright regulations in 1990. They have both been revised twice.

Many departments

Representatives of four other central government departments also attended the news conference on March 13 to talk about progress in the ongoing crackdown on counterfeits and piracy that began last November.

In addition to the SAIC and the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Commerce, the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), the National Copyright Administration and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine attended the news forum.

"Increased IPR protection is our rational choice and firm commitment," said He Hua, vice-commissioner of SIPO.

Developing an innovation-oriented country requires more creation of intellectual property along with its protection and management, He said.

"Without IPR protection, it is hard to achieve the goal of an innovation-oriented country," he noted.

Meng from the security bureau noted that "the fight against IPR crime is gathering momentum".

The police investigated nearly 9,300 IPR cases between 2006 and 2010, an increase of 60 percent over the previous five years.

Some 265,000 trademark violations were investigated during the same period, said Fu from the SAIC, with 56,000 infringements probed in 2010 alone, a 9.78 percent rise over 2009.

"We are approaching concerned departments to discuss the possibility of extending the campaign," said Li Chenggang, director-general of the Department of Treaty and Law at the Ministry of Commerce.

"We will evaluate the current campaign's plan and effect to help build an effective long-term mechanism," Li said.

The nationwide crackdown was scheduled to run through end of March, but it will now be extended to June, according to the latest notice issued by the State Council.

'Increase punishment'

Vice-Minister Liu Pingjun of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said that his group "suggests changing the law to increase punishment (for making and selling counterfeits)".

Under the current law, police and prosecutors cannot investigate an IPR case unless its value surpasses 50,000 yuan.

The infringement act itself, rather than the result, should be the determining factor to convict an offender, Liu said.

No matter the value, a case should be passed to the police for more severe punishment if it is related to people's health or security, he said.

China Daily

(China Daily 03/16/2011 page17)