China To Charge Internet Cafés Copyright Fees - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers

China To Charge Internet Cafés Copyright Fees

Efforts to enforce intellectual property protection mean trying to increase regulation of the nation's Internet cafés.

As events like the Olympics and World Expo increasingly shine the spotlight on China, the country's authorities seem to be stepping up efforts to enforce intellectual property protection -- though many will still say it's hardly enough.

The latest effort involves the controversial Chinese Movie Copyright Association, which will start a trial in several cities to charge Internet cafés for customers that view online movies. Many businesses affected by the new charges see it as unfair, saying they should not have to be responsible for all the actions of their users.

China is trying to increase regulation of the nation's Internet cafés, which officially total 138,000 but are believed to be much higher because many are unregistered. The industry rings up more than $12 billion in sales per year by charging an hourly rate to users, many of whom use the PCs to play games and watch movies or TV series.

Many of the cafés use pirated software on their PCs and are a hub for hackers, who use them to collaborate on viruses with a far-flung, loose network of compatriots.

Efforts to combat piracy in Internet cafés have strengthened over the last four or five years. Microsoft recently upped its efforts to sue smaller café chains, who don't have the resources to mount strong legal defenses, in an effort to scare larger chains into using legit software.

The move to collect movie copyright fees, however, is somewhat controversial and far from guaranteed to work. In the past, several so-called Internet café copyright agencies have prosecuted businesses for piracy and then sold movie content for profit. However the copyrights don't always belong to these agencies, leaving Internet café open to further prosecution.

One industry group, the Hangzhou Internet Café trade association, believes the responsibility should lie with the owners of the online video platforms used to disseminate copyrighted content and not with individual business owners.

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