Blockchain offers new path for IPR protection
A judicial platform to help build a credit system is expected
Published: Nov 28, 2019 07:53 PM

People walk by a sign of Blockchain Summit during the Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2019 in June. Photo: IC

Chinese internet writer Chen Hongyan has formed a new habit in her creative process - regularly uploading her literary works onto a blockchain-based database.

After uploading a piece of writing, Chen, known among her readers by her pseudonym Lingchen, will automatically receive a string of data as the electronic ID for her work.

Chen is a beneficiary of the blockchain technology used by the Hangzhou Internet Court, which was established in September 2018 to step up intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. It was China's first trial application of blockchain in the judicial area.

The judicial blockchain can help preserve evidence for copyright owners to better protect them from infringements. It can store data concerning time, location and identity on the blockchain, said Wang Jiangqiao, executive vice president of the Hangzhou Internet Court.

Numerous infringements came alongside Chen's fame. Her online literary works have more than 100 million clicks and her audiobooks have been played more than 1 million times.

"According to our rough statistics, one of my works was pirated by more than 3,000 websites, and it would take me a month to call all these infringers," Chen said.

Chen said that in the past, if she went to court she had to prove several basic facts, including that "Lingchen" was the original writer and that Chen herself was using the pseudonym. She also had to collect sufficient evidence before the infringers were ordered to delete her content.

With the new, special ID, copyright owners like Chen can easily claim their IPR in advance. When disputes arise, they can hand in the blockchain data directly as strong judicial proof.

For years, penalties for online infringements have been low, but copyright owners have needed to pay a high price if they want to protect their rights.

Chen Xinwen, general manager of a culture and media firm in Hangzhou, said copyright disputes always meant a loss of money for copyright owners.

In order to prove that they are the IPR holders and that their rights have been infringed by others, they have to pay for the necessary notarization, forensic appraisal and lawsuit. Even if they win in the end, the compensation is not enough to cover the cost, Chen Xinwen said.

Cyberspace is a virtual world where electronic data can be easily tampered with, the behaviors of users are difficult to ascertain, and the authenticity of data is hard to identify, said Gao Fuping, dean of the School of Intellectual Property at East China University of Political Science and Law.

"But data on the blockchain is tamper-proof, traceable and verifiable, and it can help save evidence to handle internet IPR disputes," said Gao.

According to the Hangzhou Internet Court, the judicial blockchain has collected more than 2.1 billion pieces of data since its establishment, facilitating efforts to find the truth.

Thus far, China's internet courts in Hangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou have all launched judicial applications of blockchain technology.

In August, the Supreme People's Court of China decided to build a unified judicial blockchain platform to bring together courts, notary offices and forensic centers.

On Sunday, the general offices of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee and the State Council jointly issued a directive calling for intensified IPR protection.

"We hope to use the judicial blockchain platform to help build a credit system in cyberspace, reduce IPR infringements and promote judicial justice and efficiency," said Wang.
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