News | International IP


Judgements Relating to
Sports Broadcasts Released in China
before World Cup 2018

published on 1 Jul 2018

The 2018 FIFA World Cup, which ended on July 15 with the victory of France over Croatia, is as much an economic event as it is a sports event. During the World Cup, bars and pubs in cities all over the world were filled with excited fans who were enjoying both the game as well as few drinks. While the revenue generated both from the alcohol sales from the pub-goers as well as purchases of sports lottery tickets was substantial, the royalties gained from broadcasting the World Cup is even greater. The broadcasting rights, which allowed the World Cup to be seen in areas ranging from urban pubs to rural households, are granted exclusively to one provider. As such, purchasing these rights can be a lucrative opportunity.  Therefore, it is important for such provider to protect its interest by the law. 

In China, whether the content of sports game can be protected under the Copyright Law has been a disputed issue for several years. There are two key issues in this regard:

(i)    Whether or not the live stream/broadcast of a sports game can fulfill the fixation requirement. This requires that a protectable work must be fixed in a tangible medium. Unlike a video file for a completed sports game, whether the live stream of sports game is fixed on a tangible medium is up to debate.

(ii)   Whether or not the content of sports game is a cinematographic work. This requires higher originality, or is a video recorded product, which requires lower originality. The key difference between the protection of a cinematographic work and a recorded video product is that, the proprietor of a cinematographic work possesses all of the 17 categories of rights, including moral rights, as listed in Article 10 of the Copyright Law; however, the proprietor of a recorded video product only possesses 5 categories of economic rights such as the right of communication of information on networks.

Recently two Chinese judgements were released by Beijing Intellectual Property Court (“Beijing IP Court”) that provide clearer guidelines on the above two issues.

Sina v. TYJZ

Beijing Sina Internet Information Services Co. Ltd. (“Sina”) was the sole licensee to live broadcast the regular season games of the Chinese Super League (“League”), the nationwide top-tier professional football association in China. Tianying Jiuzhou Network Technology Co., Ltd. (“TYJZ”), a related subsidiary of Hong Kong’s Phoenix Television, was accused of streaming the League’s games on its website without authorization from 2012 to 2014. Therefore, Sina sued TYJZ for copyright infringement and unfair competition1, claiming that the streamed games were under the category of “cinematographic works and works created by virtue of an analogous method of film production,” and were therefore protectable under the Copyright Law2. At the First instance in 2015, Beijing Chaoyang District People’s Court ruled in favor of Sina’s claims of copyright infringement. TYJZ appealed. Few years later on March 30, 2018, Beijing IP Court released the judgement of 2nd instance vacating Chaoyang court’s judgment.

 The core issue in the case was whether game streaming, in which a work is presented by a series of successive pictorial images, is a cinematographic work or a work created by virtue of an analogous method of film production, namely a cinematographic work, defined by Article 3(6) of the Copyright Law. Sina asserted that this was the case. However, the Beijing IP Court disagreed.

Over the course of reviewing the case, Beijing IP Court analyzed that a protectable cinematographic work must possess at least two elements: fixability and originality. To meet the requirement for fixability, a cinematographic work must be incorporated stably on a tangible medium. The requirement for originality instead entails that a documentary work is created via the selection and filming of the content as well as the post-game editing and arrangement of the footage, thereby demonstrating personal endeavors of the author.

Unlike the rerunning of a recorded game, where the transmission signal is already fixed on a tangible medium, live streaming does not fix the signal. On the other hand, owing to restrictive circumstances such as the objectiveness of reporting on a sport game, realtimeness of a live game, the demands of event viewers and the standardization of the transmission signal., the broadcaster has almost no freedom in choosing the shooting materials at live and little freedom in post-game editing and arrangement. Those restrictions prohibit the live broadcast of a sports game from reaching the level of originality required for a cinematographic work.

To short conclude, a live broadcast of football game lacks fixability and originality. As such, it cannot be protected as a cinematographic work. Therefore, Sina’s copyright infringement claims were not sustained.

CCTV v. Baofeng

On the same date (March 30, 2018), the Beijing IP Court released another Second  instance judgment in a dispute between CCTV Int'l Network Co., Ltd. (“CCTV”) and Beijing Baofeng Tech. Stock Co., Ltd. (“Baofeng”). CCTV was the sole entity licensed to broadcast matches of World Cup 2014. Baofeng made public more than 3,900 video segments from the 64 matches on the Internet for on-demand streaming. CCTV argued that its broadcast programs were works created by quasi-filming process or at least recorded products under the Copyright Law and that Baofeng’s video segments severely infringed upon CCTV’s exclusivity in providing games to viewers. The Court of First instance did not recognize CCTV’s programs as cinematographic works, but instead recognized them as recorded products. The court granted a monetary damage of RMB 0.67 million. CCTV appealed.

In its analysis of the case, the Beijing IP Court determined that on-demand streaming is available after live broadcasting and that signals of each game are fixed to a medium. However, taking from a similar case, Sina v. TYJZ, the court determined that sports games do not reach the required higher level of originality and therefore the 64 matches which were released by the defendant as video segments cannot be classified as cinematographic works. Despite this, their level of originality still qualifies them as recorded videos. As such, CCTV was entitled to the producer’s rights for the recordings, a right which is one of neighboring rights enumerated in the Copyright Law. The Beijing IP Court ruled that Baofeng infringed CCTV’s “right of communication of information on networks3Considering the relevant facts in the dispute, the court ordered Baofeng to indemnify CCTV RMB 4 million, including attorney’s fee, which was the entirety of CCTV’s monetary claim.


From the two cases, it can be inferred that the court attempted to make manifest an assertion that copyrighting the live streaming of games as a cinematographic work is not feasible under the copyright law system since it cannot fulfill the requirement for fixation. Therefore, the live streaming of games may not be protected by the Copyright Law. However, video recordings of games, which are produced when the game is finished and fixed on certain tangible medium, may be protected by neighboring rights. Fortunately, under Articles 41 and 42(1)(1) of the latest draft amendment of the Copyright Law, broadcast stations and TV stations have the right, among others, to license others to rebroadcast their programs, or broadcast signals for the first time bearing sound and images either by wire or wireless mediums. Hopefully, through the enactment of the amendment of the Copyright Act, live broadcast signals will soon enjoy protections.



1 Court of 1st instance did not review unfair competition claim where Sina argued that game broadcasting is a legitimate business operation worthy of lawful protection and that TYJZ’s use of transmission signal adversely undermined competition and breached commercial ethics. Plus Sina did not appeal the court’s omission, so the Beijing IP Court did not review the same accordingly.

Article 3(1)(6) of the Copyright Law

3 Article 10(12) of the Copyright Law



for any questions relating to this topic, please contact us at 

  11th F1., 148 Songjiang Rd., Taipei, Taiwan | Tel : 886-2-2571-0150 | Fax : 886-2-2562-9103 | Email :
© 2011 TSAI, LEE & CHEN CO LTD All Rights Reserved
   Web Design by Deep-White
Best viewed with IE8.0 or higher with 1024*768 resolution