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Beijing Internet Court: Short videos constitute film-like works

Updated: 2018-12-27


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Short videos online can be regarded as "work" as defined in copyright law, said the Beijing Internet Court in the verdict of its first trial on Dec 26, and both the plaintiff and the defendants accepted the judgment in court. 

The plaintiff Beijing Microvision Horizon Technology Co Ltd sued Baidu Online and Beijing Baidu Netcom for copyright infringement, claiming that the defendants' own video app had downloaded a short video published on its platform Douyin without permission and then uploaded it to the Huopai app and allowed users to download it.

Beijing Internet Court ruled that short videos online can constitute film-like works, but found that the defendants did not infringe on the plaintiff’s rights and could not be held accountable after they fulfilled the obligation to notice and delete.

In the case, the court determined whether short videos have originality, the legal impact of a short video watermark and the applicable principles of the “notice-deletion” rule, and established corresponding judicial criteria.

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Regarding the originality of short videos, the court said a number of factors should be considered.

For example, whether a short video is independently completed depends on how different it is from others on the same subject, and whether a short video is creative depends on the spiritual enjoyment it offers to viewers.

The court also decided that the legal attribute of the short video watermarking technology is not a technical measure. The user ID watermark is rights management information only, while the platform watermark gives rise to civil rights and interests and indicates the communicating entity. 

The court also said that the "notice-deletion" rule should be applied with honesty and sincerity, and maximum goodwill.

It also advised relevant departments to further clarify the usage specifications of the watermark technology, while continuing to promote it.

In this case, the plaintiff obtained and deposited evidence by using the blockchain of a third-party platform, which was recognized by the defendants. Blockchain is reliable as a method of maintaining content integrity for its materials are difficult to tamper with or delete.

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The case was heard online throughout. The parties did not need to attend a brick-and-mortar court in person, but attended on the court's e-litigation platform.

During the trial, the number of people attending on the e-litigation platform reached over 16,000, and the page views hit nearly 230,000 at the time of verdict.

Moreover, reporters from more than 20 media outlets attended the hearing and reported the judgment.