Posted by Maya Alexandri on Monday, June 18, 2007 at 12:50 PM
Together, the two treaties require signatory countries to provide copyright protection for computer programs, databases, and digital audio and video files. About sixty countries, including the United States, are already signatories. Both treaties require China to make available legal enforcement mechanisms that will allow rights-holders to protect their copyrights quickly and effectively.
Speaking of China's ratification of the treaties, Long Xinmin, the director of China's International Copyright Office, said that countries world-wide are increasingly harmonizing their intellectual property laws with international standards, and that the force of international law is already too strong to resist. He pointed out that most countries are already using the framework of the TRIPs agreement (which comes under the jurisdiction of the WTO) to amend and perfect their intellectual property laws.
What's interesting about this report is that it sounds a note of unreserved acceptance of international standards.
More typically, China's stance on intellectual property enforcement includes caveats about China being a developing country or expresses concerns about wholesale adoption of foreign values and methods. For example, China has a "two track" mechanism for enforcing intellectual property that gives both courts and administrative agencies enforcement authority. This system creates inefficiency, a lack of accountability and has rendered intellectual property virtually unprotectable in China. But far from amending its two-pronged approach, China has showcased it, insisting that it yields even greater protection for intellectual property.
Perhaps China's embrace of the international standards in the WIPO Internet treaties signals a positive development. Obviously, no law — intellectual property-related or otherwise — will be of much use until China's courts can guarantee enforcement. And if China is open to international substantive legal standards, maybe international standards for legal procedures also stand a chance.
That said, don't expect too much in the way of copyright protection for online content. The Internet is where countries with advanced copyright protection and enforcement mechanisms meet their match. In acceding to the WIPO Internet treaties, what China may have done is join the rest of the world in paying lip service to the protection of copyright online.
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