Yes, the videos you share online — even ones as short as 15 seconds — are protected by copyright laws in China, according to a Wednesday court judgment in a dispute between TikTok and Baidu.
The Beijing Internet Court — the second court established in China to deal specifically with internet-related cases, including intellectual property disputes — has closed its first case since opening in September: The plaintiff, video-sharing app TikTok (also called Douyin in China), alleged that another video-sharing platform, Baidu-backed Huopai, had reposted without authorization content created by TikTok users. But because Baidu had immediately removed the videos in question, the court rejected TikTok’s request that Huopai pay 1 million yuan ($146,000) in compensation plus 50,000 yuan for legal fees.
During the trial, Baidu argued that the videos on TikTok lacked originality and were too short to qualify for copyright protection. But the court said that regardless of the length of the videos, they should still be considered original works — and therefore be protected by copyright laws. Because Baidu had swiftly deleted the content in question, however, the court ruled that no infringement had occurred.
Song Chunfeng, a spokesperson for TikTok, said during an interview with tech news outlet PingWest that the court’s ruling had thoroughly and accurately established a standard for the copyright protection of short videos, and clarified the relationship between short-video creators and video-sharing platforms. Song called the ruling “a milestone” for short-video content creators and said that TikTok would continue to investigate potential copyright infringement by Huopai.
The Beijing Internet Court is one of three such courts in China, along with others in Hangzhou and Guangzhou. The filing was accepted electronically, and both parties were able to monitor the case’s progress by registering accounts online. Notably, blockchain-based evidence was presented during the hearing: Third-party platform Zhongjing Tianping Technology had used the technology to collect data on the origin of the disputed content.
Since merging with rival video-sharing platform musical.ly in August, TikTok has been one of the hottest mobile apps of 2018, especially among young people. The Google Play store included TikTok on its “Best of 2018” list, and as of October, the app had over 400 million monthly active users.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: TikTok’s booth at the China International Software Expo in Beijing, June 30, 2018. VCG)