As reported by The Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China, this month a new cyberspace court was approved by central government to handle the soaring number of online piracy and e-commerce disputes.
The Supreme People’s Court set up the new cyberspace court in April 2017 to handle specific types of cases, primarily related to online shopping and online intellectual property rights.
Located in the central city of Hangzhou, the cyberspace court has already accepted approximately 1,500 cases. Hangzhou is an obvious location for the first cyberspace court, as the city is an emerging technology hub and home to the e-commerce (electronic payment and online marketplace) giant Alibaba (阿里巴巴). Last year Hangzhou local courts handled about 10,000 e-commerce cases, up from only about 600 in 2013.
In addition to presiding over next-generation technology cases, the cyberspace court has implemented next-generation courtroom technology that allows plaintiffs to file cases and upload evidence online, and even to appear at hearings via video link if they do not reside locally. Such internet-enabled courtrooms could serve as a model for improving legal efficiency and providing better services throughout the Chinese judicial system, while also creating a host of new cybersecurity challenges.
China’s controversial new Cybersecurity Law came into effect on June 1, 2017. In addition to focusing on cybersecurity, the law also details how companies are to handle personal information and data, and includes many industry-specific rules (e.g., for banking and credit information services).
As with private enterprises, the cyberspace court will have to be diligent about protecting the massive amount of personal data that will undoubtedly be submitted by plaintiffs and defendants in connection with resolving their legal disputes online. The court’s internet-enabled services have already been tested during a successful pilot program at four Hangzhou courts, wherein judges were sometimes able to handle cases entirely online.