Chinese Basketball Association Sues Bilibili for Copyright Infringement

According to a ruling issued by the Beijing Higher People’s Court on July 23, Chinese Basketball Association (Beijing) Sports Co., Ltd. has sued two operators of Bilibili – Shanghai Magic Electric Information Technology Co., Ltd. and Shanghai Kuanyu Digital Technology Co., Ltd. – claiming 406 million yuan ($60.05 million) in damages.

During the 2019-2020 Chinese basketball season, the CBA Sports authorized copyright with three partners for reporting on the events through new media platforms – namely Migu, Tencent and Youku. Bilibili was not included.

However, the CBA Sports later found that Bilibili had made available to the public an online broadcast service of videos of CBA games for the 2019-2020 season on an on-demand basis, which had not ceased by the time the CBA Sports filed its lawsuit in September 2021. As a result of the CBA Sports’ investigation and evidence, 281 full game videos of the 2019-2020 CBA season and at least 416 videos of highlights from that season existed on Bilibili.

The CBA Sports holds that it is subjective and intentional infringement for Bilibili to provide the on-demand rights of CBA games on a large scale, and Bilibili is suspected of abetting and inducing its users to upload videos of CBA games. The CBA Sports also believes that Bilibili violated unfair competition law.

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To a certain extent, this infringement case shows the protection strength of the copyright of sports events after the revision of China’s Copyright Law in 2021. The newly revised law raises the compensation amount of sports copyright cases from the previously stipulated upper limit of 500,000 yuan to 5 million yuan, and also highlights the punitive damages mechanism for malicious infringement.