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Chinese Court Rules on Fair Use in Online Education

Fri, 21 May 2021
Categories: China Legal Trends

In April 2021, Beijing Internet Court ruled in a recent case that the use of others’ works of art in online classes did not constitute fair use.

On 19 Apr. 2021, Beijing Internet Court rendered a judgment of the case related to Internet Intellectual Property infringement, confirming that the use of others’ works of art in online classes did not constitute fair use, and that the defendant should stop the infringement, make an apology, and compensate for economic losses and notarization fees.

The plaintiff is the author of a cartoon, the work of art involved in the case, and has relevant copyright. The defendant is an APP developer. It is during the live broadcast and rebroadcast of a chapter of the course titled “Ideological and Moral Cultivation and Legal Basis” in this APP, that the said work of art was used twice.

The court held that if the defendant used the work of art in the course for which the plaintiff had copyright without the plaintiff's permission, without authorship or payment of remuneration to the plaintiff, the plaintiff's rights of reproduction and right of authorship were infringed. The courses in the APP developed by the defendant could be “replayed”, which allowed the public to browse the said work of art online at a selected time and place freely and thus had violated the plaintiff's legitimate right of communication through the information network.

The court further noted that the alleged infringement did not constitute fair use for the following reasons:

Firstly, the said work of art was used in an online course, and could be obtained by the vast majority of non-specific students who bought the online course through live broadcast and rebroadcast. Therefore, its scope of use was beyond the scope of “classroom teaching at school”, and the target audience was beyond the scope of “teaching or research personnel”.

Secondly, fair use restricts the economic rights of copyright holders, but still protects the right of authorship, aiming at strengthening the reputation of the author and encouraging intellectual creation. However, the name of the author and title of the work were not stated when the work of art was cited.

Thirdly, the defendant's behavior was very likely to cause the work of art to be disseminated on a large scale, which had exerted a great impact on the interests of the copyright holder.



Cover Photo by Tumisu ( on Pixabay

Contributors: CJO Staff Contributors Team

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