Blockchain deposition and digital copyright protection in China
Youping Ma and Junying Cao of Bridgeon Law Firm discuss China’s active application of blockchain technology in the field of copyright protection
As a new type of electronic evidence preservation technology, blockchain deposition has obvious advantages in terms of time and expense costs compared with traditional notary public offices.
Firstly, the price of blockchain deposition may be only one thousandth of that of traditional notary public office. Secondly, it can eliminate the complicated proof of subject qualification, especially for overseas right holders who used to need to have the qualification documents notarised and certified through embassies.
In addition, blockchain depositions often take only a few seconds, eliminating the need to wait days for a notary certificate. In recent years, Chinese courts have increasingly recognised the use of blockchain deposition, especially in the field of digital copyright disputes, which has become a trend.
Bridgeon Law Firm has extensive experience in the field of digital copyright disputes. In the digital copyright dispute cases, Bridgeon Law Firm actively applies blockchain deposition, which is not only recognised by the court, but also greatly reduces the cost of the right holder's rights defense.
In addition, Bridgeon Law Firm also actively participates in the integration and application of blockchain technology and digital copyright affirmation, traceability and transaction, such as the construction of ChinaDRM and ‘Audiovisual Chain’. Bridgeon Law Firm is committed to providing customers with more complete digital copyright protection solutions.
Main process of blockchain deposition
A complete blockchain deposition platform includes three parts: application layer, system layer and management layer, among which, the application layer is open for users to provide service interfaces, the system layer mainly includes blockchain and technologies such as timestamps and smart contracts, and the management layer consists of institutional nodes such as judicial organs or third party platforms that ensure the authenticity of the deposition carriers and deposition data.
The user first submits the collected web screenshots, video data and other infringement evidence to the application layer, and then the system layer will store the evidence in the blockchain and generate the unique hash value of the evidence and the corresponding deposition number through cryptographic algorithms, timestamps and other technologies, and the application layer will return the deposition number to the user.
When a lawsuit occurs, the user submits the deposition number and electronic evidence to the Internet court, and the court will obtain the stored electronic evidence in the deposition platform according to the deposition number and use it to judge the probative value of the evidence.
First judicial case of blockchain deposition in China
The ‘first case of blockchain deposition in the Hangzhou Court of the Internet” is the first civil case of deposition by blockchain technology in China, and the evidentiary validity of electronic data deposited by blockchain technology has been confirmed in the form of a judgment, and the review content of electronic evidence formed by blockchain technology has been clarified, which marks the recognition of blockchain deposition in the judicial field.
In July 2017, Hangzhou Huatai Yimei Culture Media (‘Huatai Yimei’) found that Shenzhen Daotong Technology Development (‘Daotong Technology’) published an article copyrighted by Huatai Yimei on its website without authorisation, and Huatai Yimei considered that Daotong Technology constituted copyright infringement, and transmitted the URL of the infringing webpage to the preservation network through the API interface and applied for fixing the infringing webpage.
The website took screenshots and obtained the source code of the target webpage through the puppeteer plugin and curl plugin, and generated operation logs, recorded the call time, packaged the aforementioned contents to calculate its SHA256 hash value, and then uploaded it to the FACTOM blockchain and bitcoin blockchain for electronic data preservation.
Upon blockchain deposition, Huatai Yimei filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Daotong Technology with the Hangzhou Court of the Internet. In the lawsuit, the forensic appraisal centre compared the data stored in the blockchain by querying the FACTOM blockchain and the Bitcoin blockchain, and concluded that the article in question had not been modified after preservation.
The court again conducted a FACTOM blockchain and bitcoin blockchain query on the electronic data stored in the blockchain according to the forensic appraisal centre's appraisal steps, and the query results were consistent with the forensic appraisal centre's appraisal results.
Moreover, it searched for ‘hash calculation tool’ in Baidu and conducted hash calculation on the infringing file package through ATOOL online tool, and the resulting SHA256 value was consistent with the content stored in the FACTOM blockchain. Based on this, on June 28 2018, the Hangzhou Court of the Internet finally found that Daotong Technology constituted infringement in this case.
Recognition of blockchain deposition by the Supreme People's Court
In several judicial interpretations and opinions of the Supreme People's Court in recent years, the authenticity of blockchain depositions has been recognised to some extent, and the use of blockchain depositions as evidence in digital copyright disputes by right holders is permitted and encouraged by the Supreme People's Court.
The ‘2018 Provisions on Several Issues Concerning the Hearing of Cases in the Internet Court’ stipulates that the internet court shall confirm the authenticity of electronic data submitted by the parties, which can be proved through technical means of evidence collection, fixation and anti-tampering such as electronic signature, trusted time stamp, hash value verification, blockchain, or through authentication by electronic forensic deposition platform.
The ‘2019 Several Provisions on Evidence in Civil Proceedings’ stipulates that if electronic data is provided or confirmed by a neutral third-party platform that records and maintains electronic data, the Supreme People's Court may confirm its authenticity, except where there is sufficient evidence to the contrary to rebut it.
The ‘2020 Opinions on Strengthening the Protection of Copyright and Copyright-Related Rights’ stipulates that parties are allowed to preserve, fix and submit evidence through blockchain and other means, effectively solving the problem of difficulty to proof for IP rights holders.
The ‘Rules of Online Litigation of People's Courts in 2021’ stipulates that if the electronic data submitted by the parties as evidence is stored through blockchain technology and has been verified to be consistent by technology, the Supreme People's Court may determine that the electronic data has not been tampered with after it has been uploaded to the chain, unless there is sufficient evidence to the contrary to overturn it.
Bridgeon Law Firm applies blockchain depositions in digital copyright disputes
Bridgeon Law Firm has rich experience in the field of digital copyright disputes. In a series of short video copyright dispute cases undertaken by Bridgeon Law Firm, the cases involved a large amount of electronic evidence on the internet, and the relevant evidence is featured with large quantity, fast update and easy loss.
If the traditional notary service is applied for evidence preservation, the client will bear high evidence preservation costs, and it is difficult to carry out evidence preservation in a timely manner. Therefore, Bridgeon Law Firm applied blockchain deposition to preserve electronic evidence, which greatly saved the client's budget and improved the efficiency of case handling.
Improvement of China's digital copyright protection system
In addition to the application in digital copyright disputes, blockchain technology has been gradually developed and applied in the fields of digital copyright affirmation, traceability and trading. In terms of copyright affirmation, blockchain copyright registration platform has also been developed at the same time as the birth of blockchain deposition platform.
Compared with the previous copyright registration with the copyright office, copyright registration through blockchain can reduce the registration cost and obtain the registration certificate quickly, and based on the characteristics of blockchain technology, it can have the same credibility as the traditional copyright registration.
In terms of copyright traceability and trading, authors can upload their works on specific blockchain platforms and carry out unified licensing and trading through blockchain platforms, which can effectively prevent the proliferation of piracy and infringement. For example, in the field of audiovisual works, the National Radio and Television Administration launched the construction of ‘Audiovisual Chain’ with over 10 organisations in Beijing in 2020.
The ‘Audiovisual Chain’ supports cross-chain integration and application access by the construction of intelligent consensus nodes, and innovates the mode of audiovisual content creation, auditing, distribution, trading, service, consumption and supervision from the practical application of blockchain.
As one of the founding co-builders of “Audiovisual Chain”, Bridgeon Law Firm is devoted to the improvement and development of China's audiovisual copyright protection system.
Active application of blockchain technology
Based on the technical features and structural advantages of blockchain such as decentralisation, information openness, tamper proof and anonymity, blockchain technology can provide great technical support in digital copyright authentication, traceability, transaction, infringement monitoring and infringement deposition, and can greatly improve the efficiency of digital copyright protection.
China’s active application of blockchain technology in the field of copyright protection will build a more perfect digital copyright protection system.
Bridgeon Law Firm
Youping Ma is a founding partner of Bridgeon Law Firm and is a Chinese attorney-at-law as well as patent attorney.
With 20 years of experience dealing with both domestic and international patent matters, Youping has worked on many high-profile infringement litigation and invalidation cases. She has been entrusted with numerous duties by professional institutes including Beijing Lawyers Association. She has been a frequent public speaker on IP related forums such as the 2019 AIPPI World Congress and China DRM Forum.
Youping earned a dual degree in Computer Science and Law from Peking University.
Bridgeon Law Firm
Junying Cao is a Chinese attorney-at-law experienced in managing matters before the Trademark Office of China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) as well as the National Copyright Administration regarding trademark and copyright infringement disputes. Junying also advises many large enterprises and listed companies around the world over corporate legal affairs.
Junying has conducted in-depth research in blockchain deposition as well as case analysis in copyright in China. He is a fluent speaker in Cantonese, Mandarin and English.