Introducing the Open Clause to improve copyright flexibility in cyberspace? Analysis and commentary on the proposed ''two-step test'' in the Third Amendment to the Copyright Law of the PRC, in comparison with the EU and the US
The so called ''three-step test'', that the limitations and exceptions of copyright shall be allowed in certain special cases, provided that they do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author, grants copyright flexibilities to balance the interests of all stakeholders, especially within the European system of circumscribed limitations and exceptions. This is essential for the domain of computer law, confronted by rapid and unpredictable global technological developments, and is, thus, enshrined in the most important international intellectual property (IP) treaties. Through the proposed third amendment to the Copyright Law of the PRC, the legislature intends to adopt this test while also introducing an open-ended list of limitations and exceptions that constitutes a China-specific ''two-step test.'' This contravenes prima facie the thesis endorsed by the WTO Panel in the case concerning Section 110(5) of the US Copyright Act in 2000. In contrast, court decisions in China frequently apply the fair use doctrine of US copyright law, neglecting to consider its peculiar context of the US common law tradition and, thus, unduly expanding the Chinese courts' discretionary power. This paper summarizes the case law in China and takes a comparative approach to address the divergence between the judicial application of cyber copyright law and the existing legislation. It suggests revising the proposed Article 43 of the Copyright Law of the PRC to capture the due interpretation of the three-step test, thereby finessing the delineation between rights protection and free use with the compensation of remuneration under the principle of proportionality. It argues that transplanting the US fair use doctrine into Chinese copyright law is feasible, but with the preconditions of endeavouring to strengthen judicial reform to integrate the IP adjudication systems, enhancing the coherence and efficiency of copyright enforcement, and facilitating consistent dialogues between scholars, practitioners, and lawmakers.
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