Beijing hosts audio copyright festival

Zhang Yixiang, China IP,[Copyright]

 

The prosperity of the audio cultural industry is inseparable from the robust protection of audio copyrights and an environment that respects the creation of audio content and is conducive to the dissemination of audio content. Tong Gang delivered a speech to the guests from multi-dimensional and multi-perspective of academic, legal, policy, management, innovation, and practice, contributing to the healthy and sustainable development of the audio copyright industry. It added wisdom and strength to constructing an open, integrated, and orderly audio copyright ecological environment.

On October 14, 2021, “Take the beat of copyright’s new era and explore the developments in the industry-Audio Creative Summit & Beijing Radio Festival Audio Copyright Forum,” which was sponsored by Beijing Radio & Television Station and jointly organized by the Intellectual Property Academy of Renmin University of China, Peking University Intellectual Property Law School, Capital Copyright Society, Beijing Sunshine Intellectual Property and Legal Development Foundation, and China IP Magazine was successfully held in Beijing Broadcasting Tower Hotel. A number of authoritative experts, well-known scholars, senior judges, and representatives of radio stations and commercial platforms were invited together, considered the pain points and difficulties in audio’s copyright, and discussed the approaches to promote the development of the audio industry through intellectual property system.

Tong Gang, vice president of the China Federation of Radio and Television Associations, delivered a speech for this forum. In the speech, Tong Gang firstly expressed warm congratulations on the forum's opening on behalf of the China Federation of Radio and Television Associations and sincere welcome to the leaders, experts, scholars, and industry representatives. He pointed out that audio, as a carrier of sound art, is a unique medium that can provide companionship and emotional sustenance at the same time. It is not only an indispensable part of audiovisual content such as movies and TV dramas but also a form of artistic expression that can exist independently. With the continuous advancement of communication technology and approaches, the range of the public covered by audio works expands. The audio industry will have substantial development opportunities in the future. However, the prosperity of the audio cultural sector is inseparable from the robust protection of audio copyrights and a positive environment that respects the creation of audio content and is conducive to the dissemination of audio content. Tong Gang delivered a speech to the guests from multi-dimensional and multi-perspective of academic, legal, policy, management, innovation, and practice, contributing to the healthy and sustainable development of the audio copyright industry. It added wisdom and strength to constructing an open, integrated, and orderly audio copyright ecological environment.

Keynote Speech: Focusing on Realistic Issues, Finding a Path to Protect Audio Works

After the speech, Li Xiulei, member of the Party Leadership Group and Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Beijing Radio & Television Station, and Liu Chuntian, President of the Intellectual Property Law Research Association of the China Law Society and Dean of the Intellectual Property Academy of the Renmin University of China, delivered keynote speeches successively. They shared their views on the status quo and problems of the legal positioning and reform path of audio’s copyright protection and exploration.

Li Xiulei combined her many years of working experience in Beijing Radio and Television Station and pointed out that, although the domestic audio content industry is currently not as large as the publishing and video industries, it is still on the wave of development and has unlimited prospects. However, the current domestic audio content industry is facing significant obstacles to copyright protection. The main problems are the unclear ownership of audio content, difficulty in rights’ confirmation, insufficient copyright protection, tests in development and dissemination, resulting in a large number of waste of high-quality audio content resources.

Regarding the reason, Li Xiulei believes that it is essentially because the current audio content is often identified as "recordings" rather than "works" by the Copyright Law of the People's Republic of China and related judicial practices, leading the copyrighted work of audio content into various difficulties. First of all, audio content production often involves manuscript creation, editing, performers, recording, music and sound, and many other links. However, the rights defined by "recordings" are scattered, and the ownership is uncertain, and its confirmation requires the joint authorization of the participants in the above processes, which is complicated. Some audio content created earlier and cannot be traced back by participants in various processes is even severe in a state of being unable to be confirmed and protected. Secondly, the protection of “phonographs” in judicial practice is not as strong as text, pictures, and audiovisual works. It is difficult for the right holders of sound recordings to prohibit others from piracy. Their external authorizations often face obstacles to the copyright review process, which is disadvantaged to the production and dissemination of audio content and its redevelopment and utilization. They harm the development of the entire audio industry and the culture of audio content.

Li Xiulei proposed that hopefully, society and the entire industry can recognize the creative elements in audio content works, fully respect the creative expression of the authors of audio content, and treat audio content practitioners as creators rather than just synthesizers and processors. Audio content is based on the status of works. It is hoped that all audio content creators will take the initiative and even file lawsuits to promote the copyright protection of audio content to a new stage.

Liu Chuntian combined his personal experience in participating in the legislative process of Copyright Law of the People's Republic of China and shared his insights on the possible legal path for protecting audio content in the future. He pointed out that sound is an inherent human instinct, and audio content is created by human instinct, which has the same vitality as human history. Audio works are the art of managing and sculpting sound, as well as the art of interpreting and deducing existing materials. Its originality is reflected in the author's interpretation and deduction process. The copyright law is a law born to protect literary and artistic creations. The concept of "product" refers to the producing and manufacturing process, which is fundamentally different from the concept of "creation" and should not appear in copyright law. Therefore, the current Copyright Law of the People's Republic of China defines audio content as "phonographs", which is inappropriate. In summary, Liu Chuntian suggested going beyond the legal provisions' limitations, making reasonable, logical deductions based on academic theories, naming the audio content as "audio works," and providing appropriate legal protection.

In addition, Liu Chuntian pointed out that when discussing the legal protection of audio works, one should distinguish the two concepts of the right based on the copying process. The right emerges when the work is produced. The most effective approach for the audio industry to utilize and benefit from audio works is dissemination rather than copying. Therefore, the explicit use of creating audio works rather than copying is more conducive to audio work creators claiming their rights and interests.

Finally, Liu Chuntian suggested that the audio industry should establish specialized research institutions to explore the essential characteristics, creative rules, and industrialization development of audio works, and actively provide suggestions and appeals to legislative and judicial departments to protect their rationality and fight for their vital interests.

After the keynote speech, the round-table forum was held. The round-table forum was hosted by Yao Huanqing, Secretary-General of Beijing Sunshine Intellectual Property and Legal Development Foundation, Zhang Ping, executive vice president of the Peking University Intellectual Property Law School, vice chairman of the Intellectual Property Law Research Society of the Chinese Law Society, and Ma Yide, Deputy Director of the Intellectual Property Law Research Society of the Chinese Law Society, Professor of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Representative of the 13th National People’s Congress, Yan Jun, Deputy Chief of the Comprehensive Trial Division of Beijing Internet Court, Liu Chengbin, Beijing Radio & Television Station Official Client TingTing FM Deputy General Manager, Liu Hongtao, Editor-in-Chief of Ximalaya Radio and Television Media, Liu Can, Legal Director of Spiritual Wealth Club, and other six guests discussed the objective status of audio content in copyright law, the copyright issue in the second-time creation re-creation of audio content, and the copyright issue of AI-created sound content.

The objective status of audio content in Copyright Law

Zhang Ping pointed out that, judging from the provisions of the current Copyright Law, there are no practical obstacles to including original audio content in the category of works for protection. The current Copyright Law has contained "audiovisual works" in the category of works, and "audiovisual" includes "listening", so original audio content can be classified as audiovisual works for protection; in addition, originality can also be recognized. The audio content of Copyright Law complies with the comprehensive provisions on the type of work (other intellectual achievements in line with the characteristics of the work) and then is protected. Yan Jun pointed out that some important details need to be resolved to protect audio content as work, such as the contribution and originality of the audio content performer, the right boundary between performer rights and original rights, the copyrightability of sound effects, and the signature of audio works, etc. Ma Yide emphasized that audio content is the same as other creative forms and whether it is established as work should always be based on whether the author invests in the creation.

About the copyright issue in the second-time creation of audio content

Liu Hongtao mentioned that the creation of audio content is multi-faceted, often involving the authorization of a large number of multiple types of materials such as text and music, which has caused significant troubles to audio content creators such as radio stations. In addition, for audio media such as radio stations, whether the audio content created by the host outside of working hours is service work is also an important issue. In this regard, Zhang Ping suggested that broadcasting organizations take the initiative to promote the open authorization of copyrights, actively utilize materials in the open authorization space for creation, and at the same time be cautious about using materials from unknown and unauthorized sources. Zhang Ping also pointed out that the Copyright Law could not solve all the problems of right confirmation. Audio content creators should actively agree on the ownership of rights through contracts during the creation process. This will help avoid possible legal disputes and help realize efficient business management of audio content.

Regarding the copyright issue of AI-created audio content

Zhang Ping pointed out that AI can easily imitate and copy the creative style of others without involving the imitating of specific works, which challenges essential systems and principles of the Copyright Law. He suggested that for AI-created works, the right of attribution should be separated from the copyright. The right of attribution can be attributed to AI, which serves as a mark similar to a trademark. At the same time, the copyright should still belong to the natural person who is the AI developer. Yan Jun mentioned that in the case of AI imitating the voice of others to create audio content, the voice of a specific natural person could be classified as personality rights for protection and commercial use, thereby solving the problem of rights confirmation and rights protection in such situations. Based on the practical experience of audio content producers, Liu Can points out that the current use of AI to imitate other people’s voices for audio content creation and competition for other users’ resources is becoming more and more common. The original right holders still lack an effective way to protect their rights in the face of such problems. In the future, the legislative and judicial institutions can emphasize and strengthen the regulation of such infringements.

Copyright issues in broadcast’s live streaming

Liu Chengbin believes that, in its essence, live streaming is the timing and reasonable arrangement of a large number of broadcast programs. Therefore, it can be analogized to a compilation work, claiming the protection of the neighboring right. Liu Hongtao pointed out that before the recent revision of the Copyright Law, there has been no explicit legal characterization of live broadcast streams, which has made audio content commercial platforms hesitate on how to use the live streams of national radio stations, which has affected traditional radio stations and emerging broadcasters. It is hoped that the two parties can find a reasonable and legal path in the future and make full use of their respective advantageous resources to cooperate and empower both parties.

Co-published: Public proposal for "protecting the copyright of audio works"

After the round-table forum, Sun Chao, Deputy Director of the Beijing Radio and Television Station Research and Development Center, released the public proposal of "Protecting the rights of audio works" that was jointly published by Beijing Radio and Television Station, Intellectual Property Academy of Renmin University of China, Peking University Intellectual Property Law School, Capital Copyright Society, and Beijing Sunshine Intellectual Property and Legal Development Foundation.

The proposal calls on the entire industry and society to cooperate to resist all kinds of infringements on the copyright of audio works, encourage fair and legal cooperation and development of copyright, and jointly build an open, integrated and orderly environment of audio works’ creation, dissemination, industrial development, and market prosperity.

It is believed that the forum will play an applaudable role in building a healthy, friendly, and sustainable copyright environment of audio works and boosting the development of a diversified and win-win audio industry's new ecology.

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