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Beijing Internet Court presents its trials of portraiture rights infringement cases

english.bjinternetcourt.gov.cn | Updated: 2020-09-18


The Beijing Internet Court opened a press conference to  present its handling of online portraiture rights infringement cases and specified trial rules on Sept 17.

From Sept 9, 2018 to Aug 31, 2020, the court accepted 4,109 portraiture rights infringement cases, accounting for 65.4 percent of the country’s 6,284 online infringement cases of personality rights.

Among all kinds of infringement disputes, portraiture rights disputes are the second most frequent, following only internet copyrights disputes.

Most portraiture right holders are public figures with a certain popularity, especially celebrities in the field of performing arts. The defendants are most likely to be enterprises, individual businesses, freelances, and even hospitals and newspaper offices, and the tort often happens in the cosmetics industry as well as the health, clothing and accessories industries, according to the press conference.

The infringement occurs most frequently in WeChat official accounts, followed by e-commerce platforms and official websites or Weibo accounts of enterprises, in the aim of promoting products or services. 

It is worth noting that editing variety shows' clips and making emojis, wax figures and clay sculptures may be suspected of infringement.

"Compared with the traditional way of using celebrity portraits for marketing, torts appear in more covert ways in the online environment," said Zhao Changxin, head of the court's Case-filing Division.

The abuse of celebrity images in blind advertising and the online sales of the same kind of goods as those of celebrities are relatively prevalent, said Zhao.

New ways of infringements have sprung up on the internet with the help of latest technology, such as using image processing softwares and AI technology to forge or parody images, Zhao added.

The purposes of infringements are mainly making profits, gaining popularity and attracting attention, and many of them are uses of works containing portraits of public figures without their consent.

Some cases are minor infringements with less serious damages, and the rights holders may lack proof of their popularity, actual losses and the profits gained by the tort-feasors; so there is a large gap between the final compensation amount and that claimed in the lawsuit.

At the same time, the limited information disclosure of the online platform also creates obstacles for rights holders.