BIC case included in 2021 top 10 IPR cases heard by Beijing courts
The top 10 intellectual property right (IPR) cases trialed by courts in Beijing in 2021 were recently released. A photograph copyright infringement case trialed by the Beijing Internet Court (BIC) was included in the list. It was the first case in the country to use the “copyright chain plus Tianping Blockchain” platform which unifies ownership registration confirmation rules and judicial determination rules for evidence collection and authentication.
The plaintiff, Beijing Meihao Jingxiang Image Co Ltd, owned the copyright of the photographs involved in the case. The defendant, Beijing Tianying Jiuzhou Online Technology Co Ltd used the involved photographs on its website ifeng.com without authorization from the plaintiff. The plaintiff sued the defendant at the BIC, claiming 6,000 yuan ($884.79) as economic losses and 1,000 yuan as expenses.
During the trial of the first instance, the copyright registration materials of the photographs involved were retrieved from the copyright chain and verified via blockchain technology. The authenticity of the information was acknowledged by the defendant. As the absence of evidence to the contrary, the BIC determined that the plaintiff was the copyright owner of the photographs. The defendant used the photographs on its website without authorization from the plaintiff and allowed online users to access the photographs at their chosen time and location. By doing this, the defendant infringed the plaintiff’s information network dissemination right and became liable for the infringement.
The defendant was fully aware of the infringement risks of its behavior as well as the authorization procedures of the photographs involved. Its failure to take timely measures to avoid infringement or try to get authorization means it was at fault subjectively. The BIC gave its judgement of first instance, ordering the defendant to compensate 900 yuan to the plaintiff as economic losses and 100 yuan as other expenses. The verdict is now in effect.
The case was the first copyright case in China which used the “copyright chain plus Tianping Blockchain” platform for evidence collection and authentication.
To tackle digital evidence which is hard to deposit and verify, and easy to change, the BIC launched the Tianping Blockchain digital evidence platform.
On Sept 6, 2020, the BIC and the Beijing Copyright Protection Center (BCPC) jointly launched the “copyright chain plus Tianping Blockchain” platform which was able to synchronize the administrative copyright registration information and the judicial trial data and achieve the unification of ownership registration confirmation rules and judicial determination rules. After right holders register their works at the BCPC and save their digital copyright certificates on the copyright chain, and then file a copyright infringement case at the BIC, the court can easily retrieve the copyright registration materials saved at the BCPC for verification. The mechanism greatly reduces the cost of proof for litigants and difficulty of authentication for judges, and improves the actual efficiency of works registration and the admissibility of evidence.
It is a key measure of joint efforts by administrative and judicial organs in building a copyright co-governance social system, as well as a beneficial exploration of promoting and improving the work pattern of IPR protection.