SAPPRFT and MIIT Issue Revised Online Publishing Provisions

On 4 February 2016, the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television (“SAPPRFT”) and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (“MIIT”) jointly issued the Provisions on the Administration of Network Publishing Services 2016 (网络出版服务管理规定). The provisions will replace the Interim Provisions on Internet Publication Administration 2002, with effect from 10 March 2016.

Under the 2016 provisions, “online publishing services” refers to the public dissemination of online publications through an information network. “Online publications” refers to digital works with editing, production, processing and other publishing features, including the following:

  • Text, images, maps, games, animation, audio-visual books and other original digital works of literature, art, science and so on.
  • Content consistent with published books, newspapers, periodicals, audio-visual products, electronic publications and other digital works.
  • New selections, arrangements and collections of the above content.
  • Other digital works as identified by SAPPRFT.

This new definition broadens the scope of online publications to capture online maps and document databases, as well as future innovations within the internet sector.

The new provisions also raise the licensing qualifications threshold for certain types of online publishing service providers. An online publishing unit that publishes books, audio products, electronics and periodicals online must obtain a Network Publishing Services Licence and possess each of the following:

  • A fixed place of business.
  • Content review and editing systems.
  • Various personnel requirements, including a Chinese legal representative and SAPPRFT-authorised publishers and editors.

Foreign investment in this sector is prohibited, and co-operation between an online publisher and a foreign-invested enterprise or a foreign entity or individual is prohibited without prior approval from SAPPRFT.

Market Reaction

Zhang Hongbin, Partner, JunHe LLP, Beijing

“In recent years, the online publishing industry has undergone a speedy evolution, which triggered the need to update the Interim Provisions on Internet Publication Administration 2002. The new provisions revised the licensing requirements and procedures for a Network Publishing Services Licence and strengthened the power of publishing administration authorities to approve and supervise online publishing services, which will inevitably have a material impact on the online publishing service industry. On the other hand, given the fact that the definition prescribed under the provisions is far too extensive, we await the publication of detailed classifications of online publishing service business. In the meantime, we may also expect the publishing administration authorities to clarify the scope of application of the provisions through practice.”

Action Items

General Counsel for companies that do business with online publishing service providers should become familiar with the revised rules and ensure that each online publisher is properly licensed and that the SAPPFRT has expressly approved each arrangement.