In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, online education has gained popularity due to the need for reduced travel. But industrial insiders said the emerging sector has much to tackle regarding copyright protection.
Market consultancy iiMedia Research forecast that the number of domestic users receiving online training will reach 309 million. Its market scale is expected to achieve 453.8 billion yuan ($63.97 billion) in 2020, according to China Intellectual Property News.
Wei Jia, legal counsel of tutoring service provider TAL Education Group, spoke at a recent seminar on intellectual property concerning online education in Beijing. He said that the company has filed complaints with an e-commerce platform, had more than 14,000 links carrying unauthorized courseware deleted and 274 involved stores shutdown since October 2019.
However, infringements are continuing, Wei added.
A large number of pirated course videos are sold for lower prices in corners of online platforms, he said. "It costs only 50 yuan for a link loaded with a huge number of online class videos, involving countless courses."
The same thing happened to online education platform Yuanfudao.
A manager at Yuanfudao told China Intellectual Property News that the company has spotted illegal sales of its course resources on third-party platforms.
These unauthorized resources are normally shared by links or network disks, the manager said.Zhu Ge, a judge from the Beijing Internet Court, said that in judicial practices, online courses can be protected as oral work and teaching materials and test papers as literary works.
Videos of online courses can also be protected as creations similar to films, Zhu added.
While online courses can be protected under the Copyright Law, offenders try to get around the legal issue by insisting they are for schooling, rather than commercial purpose. According to Copyright Law, a small number of copies of published works is allowed for schooling, scientific research or translation, given that they cannot be published for distribution. In those cases, statutory licensing requires neither permission by or royalties paid to copyright owners.
Wang Qian, a law professor at East China University of Political Science and Law, said that the use of the works as teaching materials can take place both in the classroom and on cyberspace.
The Copyright Law allows for exceptions－including school textbooks－based on the principle of rational use, yet puts a limit on the range for such use.
In the case of online training, works are banned from being directly used as teaching materials without authorization. Although they can be cited as examples in the teaching process, which constitutes a rational use, they are subject to stringent requirements, Wang said.
But, the judge noted, the translation, reproduction and network distribution of courseware should be conducted in accordance with laws and regulations. This helps avoid any risk of unfair market competition or causing damage to copyright owners.
Online education requires a vast number of works and it is hard to obtain authorization from authors one by one, said Qi Lei, a judge from the Beijing High People's Court.
Qi suggested online education practitioners properly manage their works authorization and brands.
Source: China Daily Global