[Source: State of Intellectual Property of the PRC website]

The Copyright Protection Center of China (CPCC) has published the 2014 Analysis Report on China’s Software Copyright Registration (hereinafter “Report”). According to the Report, the number of software copyright registration has reached 218,800, which was a major breakthrough since 2011 with over 100,000 registrations then. The boost of software copyright registration in 3 years from 100,000 registrations in 2011 to 200,000 registrations in 2014 is an evidence for the increase in copyright protection awareness and the rapid growth of software copyright registrations.

Compared to other software programs, computers software is more abstract, logical, difficult to be identified, and easy to be modified in its form of expression and process of creation, making the security of the rights more vulnerable. Therefore, software copyright owners rely on copyright registration more than other types of copyrights do. Currently, there are two categories of software registration: registration of software copyright and registration of agreement for the software copyright. According to the CPCC, excluding computer software registration, the number of copyright registrations has reached close to 1,000,000, of which 200,000 of the registrations belonged to software copyrights. The software copyright registration has played a vital role in the development of software industry in China.

The protection of computer software started to be enforced in 1984, and the Regulations on Computers Software Protection was promulgated in 1992. Later as China joined the World Trade Organization, the Regulations were amended in order to harmonize with international trends, and the National Copyright Administration of the PRC was established and became responsible for regulation and management of software copyrights. The amended Registration Measures for Computer Software Copyright was released in 2002.

As for now, China grants registrations to software copyrights and software copyright agreements, where the applications need to be filed with CPCC. Registration of software copyright is considered the initial identification of the software ownership, and can help ensuring the safety of trade. Even though the software copyright registration does not provide absolute protection, but at the time of disputes, registration can be used as a proof of ownership. In copyright infringement litigations, the cost of lawsuit can be lowered by using registrations to prove ownership. Also, with the records of registrations archived and accessible at the time of need, the efficiency in the legal and administrative enforcement of software copyright protection will be greatly improved.

The system for software copyright registration, however, still has room for improvement.

First, there exist discrepancies in the overall management of the software copyright registration. The CPCC is the competent authority for the registration of software copyright acknowledged by the National Copyright Administration of the PRC. Although the CPCC handles application and prosecution of the software copyright registration, it is the National Copyright Administration who has the authority to grant certificate of registration. In addition, according to Registration Measures for Computer Software Copyright, it is the National Copyright Administration, not the CPCC, that can revoke registration upon the outcome of judicial decision and administrative penalty. However, revocation should be a part of the registration application, and thus should be handled by the CPCC instead of the National Copyright Administration. The allocation of duties between the National Copyright Administration and the CPCC will create confusion and inefficiency in the management of software copyright registration.

Second, revocation of registration can only be requested by the applicant and the National Copyright Administration of the PRC upon rendering of administrative penalties and judicial rulings. The CPCC who is the competent authority of the registration that handles examination or verification of applications has no authority to initiate the revocation of registration. The CPCC is the one that is able to identify registration incompatible with the provisions of registration regulations, yet it cannot act upon its own initiative to revoke registration. This system loophole has caused the incompatible registrations to exist and persist.

Lastly, The effect of registration for exclusive licensing and transferring of software copyright should also be further clarified.