‘Software Copyright Protection Applications’ Surge in China, Whatever That Means

0 Comment

Pet peeve of mine. I don’t like it when the press talks about software registration as a standalone IP right. It isn’t. It is, however, evidence of an already-existing copyright held by the owner/developer of the software.

This China Daily article set me off:

Applications for computer software copyright protection in China have almost quadrupled, from nearly 21,500 in 2006 to nearly 82,000 in 2010.

I understand that this is a translated term, so I shouldn’t get all nasty about it, but this comes up once in a while with clients, and they tend to get confused when they read stuff like this.

Just to be clear: China law provides for a registration process whereby the owner/developer of software can go to the Copyright Protection Center (part of the Copyright Bureau or NCA) and apply for a certificate of ownership. This is the software equivalent of a copyright recordal, which is a document issued by the NCA that can be used as prima facie evidence of ownership, often used in copyright disputes.

The process is quick and cheap, since the application does not go through a substantive review as to ownership. Kind of like certain kinds of patents. Keep in mind, therefore, that the underlying copyright can still be challenged in court later on; having the registration does not mean that your ownership rights are unassailable.

The registration does also not confer any additional rights on the owner/developer since copyright protection vests automatically upon creation of the work. This is simply an additional administrative procedure built upon the existing foundation of copyright law.