Live telecast of sporting events because of its popularity, tends to be vulnerable to more online piracy by infringing websites. Fortunately, the latest juridical practices in China affirms that telecast right holders, including sport organizations and leagues that own rights in telecasts of their live sports events as well as authorized broadcasters, may seek remedies under either the PRC Copyright Law or the PRC Anti-Unfair Competition Law against such piracy.
1. Remedy under the PRC Copyright Law
Some courts (such as Chaoyang District People’s Court in Beijing) have ruled that the images of live telecasts of sports events constituted copyrighted works within the meaning of the PRC Copyright Law and thus online piracy of live sports telecast constituted infringement of copyright; some courts (such as Intermediate People’s Court of Guangzhou), on the other hand, have recognized sports telecast as audio and video recordings other than works under the PRC Copyright Law and found that online piracy of live sports telecast constituted infringement of the information network communication right enjoyed by telecast right holders as the producers of audio and video recordings.
As such, telecast right owners faced with unauthorized live streams of sports events distributed by offending websites may combat such piracy by suing those websites for infringement of copyright or the information network communication right, requesting the court to order the websites to bear such civil remedies in terms of ceasing infringement, eliminating the effects of the infringement, making an apology or compensating for losses as set out under the PRC Copyright Law.
2. Remedy under the PRC Anti-Unfair Competition Law
Some courts (such as Beijing No.1 Intermediate People’s Court, Futian District People’s Court in Shenzhen) have found that, although live sports telecast did not constitute works in the sense of the PRC Copyright Law, online piracy of live sports telecasts should be categorized as an unfair competition activity. Accordingly, telecast right holders may enforce against online piracy of live sports telecast on the ground of unfair competition, requesting the website offering unauthorized transmissions to bear civil liabilities such as ceasing infringement, eliminating the impacts of the infringement or compensating for the losses under the PRC anti-unfair competition law regime.
Given the availability of such remedies under the PRC Copyright Law or the PRC Anti-Unfair Competition Law, telecast right holders must determine the jurisdiction over the infringement by the infringing websites before fixing the right cause of action under the PRC Copyright Law or the PRC Anti-Unfair Competition Law, as different courts has different practice in this regard.