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Regulating peer-to-peer technology in China: inspiration from the United Kingdom

Xiao Ma

Keywords: P2P; digital copyright infringement; authorization liability; China copyright law

During the past decade, China has learnt from the experience of the United States and developed a series of legal instruments to address the digital challenges of massive copyright infringement. These efforts have established a joint tort liability system under which network service providers (NSPs) share joint liability with direct infringing users under certain conditions. Under this system, NSPs bear aiding or abetting liabilities which correspond to the United States’ contributory and inducement liabilities. However, when facing peer-to-peer (P2P) technology, the fault-centred approach manifested in knowledge is not only difficult to prove but also overlooks objective factors. Moreover, general tort law principles are sometimes set aside in adjudicating cases concerning indirect copyright liabilities.

This article examines authorization liability in the United Kingdom, finding that this approach is underpinned by traditional tort law theory and more integrated in adjudicating P2P cases. It requires a spectrum of consideration consisting of two-step analysis: conceptual analysis and multi-factor analysis. This research proposes that while maintaining the current dichotomy framework of copyright liabilities, the UK authorization liability approach provides a valuable lesson, especially in regulating P2P technologies in China.

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