Authored by: Seagull Song and Chan PuiLing
In April 2023, Chinese Hangzhou Internet Court ruled on the first case regarding digital avatar in China. The plaintiff, Mofa Company (“Mofa”), lodged a complaint alleging that the defendant, a network company located in Hangzhou (the “Defendant”), had engaged in copyright infringement and unfair competition. Ultimately, the court of first instance ordered the Defendant to bear the legal responsibility of eliminating the impact and compensating for the loss. Unsatisfied with the result, the Defendant appealed to the Intermediate People’s Court of Hangzhou. At present, the case is awaiting commencement of court session by the court of second instance.
In this case, the court of first instance focused on the following issues: (1) whether digital avatar enjoys copyright and/or neighboring right protection; (2) whether the image of digital avatar and its related videos are copyrightable subject matter; (3) whether Mofa, the developer of the digital avatar, enjoys the neighboring right protection; and (4) whether the economic interests of digital avatars can be regulated and protected by the Copyright Law and Anti-Unfair Competition Law.