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Gaming industry rife with copyright issues

With more online game developers shifting their focus from the computer terminal to mobile devices, the number of intellectual property infringement cases involving unauthorized use of cartoon images from those games is on the rise, said a senior legal official.

At a forum on internet copyright issues held in Beijing in late December, Yi Zhenchun, chief judge of the IP tribunal at Beijing's Shijingshan district court, said infringement behaviors are also no longer limited to simply copying source codes and imitating images, but extend to further acts of unfair competition.

Yi cited some online game companies maliciously issuing announcements of alleged copyright infringement or fraudulent use of names of well-known works when their competitors propagate new products or go public.

Yi said the IP tribunal handled 254 infringement cases involving animations, comics and games in 2015 and the first 10 months of 2016, nearly nine times the total in 2013 and 2014.

"They have covered almost all kinds of IP cases that grassroots courts like Beijing Shijingshan district court can deal with," Yi told Legal Daily.

Court trials for those cases, particularly online game-related cases, are becoming more difficult due to new technologies, which seem to emerge endlessly, Yi said.

The increasing number of cases with multiple causes of action, such as violations on copyrights and unfair competition, trademarks and unfair competition, or a combination of these, also increases the difficulty of judges' trial work, she added.

Han Zhiyu, secretary-general of the Capital Copyright Industry Alliance, said at the forum that China now has at least 100,000 small and medium-sized websites that engage in long-term infringement activities related to videos, music, photos, games and software. They are hard to detect and supervise, he said.

Liu Zhengcao, secretary-general of Tencent Research Institute's copyright center, said pirate websites are rampant because they have reaped rich benefits from such illegal behavior. Low standards of statutory compensation and the lack of punitive damages have also fed their arrogance, Liu said.

Yi suggested that administrative bodies strengthen reviews of market access and content examination in the game industry, and regularly issue lists of key protected games and blacklists of companies engaged in consistent infringement behaviors.

The game industry associations should establish industrial standards and self-disciplinary rules, release risk assessment reports and develop cooperation and mediation mechanisms with judicial bodies, Yi said.

Wu Guanyong, deputy director of the 12426 Copyright Monitoring Center, part of the Copyright Society of China, said the center will remain committed to providing fair copyright monitoring and one-stop IP safeguarding services to society.

"We also call for cooperation with all walks of life, including rights owners, law firms and administrative, judicial and law enforcement authorities, to create a healthier and more transparent copyright market in China," Wu said.

Source: China Daily