With over 300 platforms, live broadcasting on the internet is extremely popular in China. Last year this rapidly growing industry was valued at around $1.8 billion, and it is predicated it will be worth $15.9 billion by 2020. Every day millions of ordinary people are creating and posting original content on a diverse range of topics. Viewers can respond to the content in real time, send comments or virtual gifts. To regulate these activities and content, the Cybersecurity Administration of China (“CAC”) published the Regulations on the Internet Live Broadcasting Services (《互联网直播服务管理规定》) (“Regulations”) on 4 November 2016.
The Regulations apply to the provision and use of Internet live broadcasting services within the territory of China. “Internet live broadcasting” (“ILB”) refers to the activities of continuous distribution of real-time information to the public, available on the internet, in the form of video, audio, picture, word, or similar. The Regulations set out the responsibilities and obligations of the parties who operate ILB platforms (defined as “ILB Service Providers”), as well as the parties who distribute and/or receive real-time information through such platforms (defined as “ILB Service Users”).
The Regulations largely focus on the ILB Service Providers. Their main obligations include: (i) engaging qualified staff and establishing proper systems to control and prevent the distribution of any illegal or inappropriate content or information through their platforms; the specific measures taken shall include classifying the content and information in accordance with the genre and audience scale; (ii) having technical capabilities that are necessary for the operation of the platforms; for example, the capability of discontinuing a particular live broadcasting stream, monitoring real-time comments/bullet curtains sent through the platforms, and recording the distribution and usage logs of ILB Service Users for at least 60 days; and (iii) entering into service agreements with ILB Service Users and including in the agreements all the clauses required by the local CACs.
While the ILB Service Users can use any generic names/nicknames to distribute or watch content, they are required to provide their true identification information to the ILB Service Providers. If an ILB Service User violates any legal requirements (e.g. distributing illegal or inappropriate content) or the service agreement, the ILB Service Provider has the right to close its account, include it into a “black list” recorded with the local CACs, and refuse to provide any further ILB services to it.
In particular to the provision of news services in the form of ILB, the Regulations make it clear that the relevant ILB Service Providers and ILB Service Users (the distributor in particular) shall be subject to the qualification and other requirements of the Regulations on the Internet News Information Service (《互联网新闻信息服务管理规定》).