Friday, October 10, 2014

Parsing the New Internet Rules of China’s Supreme Court | China Copyright and Media

Rogier Creemers, Oxford Comparative Media Law scholar reports on the new regulations on online torts issued by China's Supreme People's Court. He has translated the Regulations and given us commentary.  - gwc

Parsing the New Internet Rules of China’s Supreme Court | China Copyright and Media: "Yesterday, the Supreme People’s Court issued a document with the – predictably convoluted – title “Supreme People’s Court Regulations concerning Some Questions of Applicable Law in Handing Civil Dispute Cases involving the Use of Information Networks to Harm Personal Rights and Interests”. This document provides instructions to People’s Courts on certain aspect of dealing with civil cases involving harm to personality rights, including the right to privacy, portrait rights and reputational rights. (Full disclosure, I was involved in an academic project that provided input into the drafting process). It has been drafted to supplement the broad language of Article 36 of the Tort Liability Law, which sets forth a basis of liability for the online infringement of citizens’ rights, and provides for basic remedial measures. The Article’s wording left many questions of procedure and substance unanswered, meaning that courts (which in China’s civil law-based system have considerably less leeway to interpret the law, and do not create binding precedents) often faced considerable difficulties in handling these cases.

So, what are the salient points?

Most of the provisions in the document relate to procedure, yet have important consequences for the potential liability of network service providers and a fortiori, Internet users. Article 3, for instance, indicates that if a plaintiff sues only an Internet user or a network service provider (rather than both), the defendant may request that the other party is added to the case as a joint defendant. In other words, defendants are incentivized to share the blame and, in case compensation is ordered, the costs. Internet service providers are also mandated to provide identity and contact details of Internet users posting unlawful information, and face punishment if they do not provide this (Article 4). So far, efforts to impose an online real-name registration system have only been moderately successful, but depending on the penalty companies might incur if they are not able to provide identity details to courts, that might just change a little. Yet the real-name requirement goes both ways, as Article 5 indicates that Internet service providers are exempt from liability if the plaintiff’s notification about the presence of harmful content does not include a full name and contact details, indication of the harmful information, and an explanation for why it might be harmful. Furthermore, plaintiffs who falsely indicate that certain information is unlawful, face tort liability themselves (Article 8).

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