BIC case rated IPR case with most research value in 2021
A list of the top 10 intellectual property right (IPR) cases with most research value in 2021 was recently announced by the Shanghai IPR Institute. A case heard by the Beijing Internet Court (BIC) on infringing the information network dissemination right of time-lapse photography was included by the list.
The case’s plaintiff, surnamed Zhou, is a time-lapse photographer. Zhou independently created a photographic work about Beijing with a time-lapse technique comprised of 5,392 photographs taken from 71 sites. It was created in a way similar to cinematography by taking hundreds of photos at the same objects at fixed intervals, so that still photos became dynamic. In September 2018, Zhou discovered that the work was being used on a website without authorization. On March 12, 2019, the owner of the website received a lawyer’s letter on behalf of the plaintiff, asking for removal of the work from the website within five days. The defendant didn’t take that step. After trial, the BIC concluded the work involved was an audio-visual work instead of a photographic one. The defendant’s use of the work was inappropriate and infringed upon the plaintiff’s signature right, reproduction right and information network dissemination right to the work involved. However, the defendant had no fault for the infringement and should not bear the legal liability of apologizing, impact elimination and compensation. The judgment of the first instance ordered the defendant to compensate 2,000 yuan ($298.8) as expenses to the plaintiff. The judgment of the second instance upheld the original judgment and rejected the appeal.
In deciding the type of work, the court applied a public perception standard. The public perceived the work as a continuous dynamic presentation instead of still photographs. The work was found to be a work created in a way similar to cinematography. The case has exploratory significance in defining types of works and differentiating photographic works from audio-visual works.