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China sets up first dedicated cyberspace court in Hangzhou to handle piracy and e-commerce disputes

China Daily, a Chinese state media outlet, reported that the government has set up its first cyberspace court in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province to handle the rising number of online piracy (intellectual property rights) and e-commerce disputes.

Hangzhou is home to many technology-driven enterprises, the biggest and most well-known of which is Internet giant, Alibaba group, which operates Alibaba, Taobao and TMall e-commerce websites and the Alipay, digital payment platform. So, it might be the ideal venue to set up the first court of its kind.

Alibaba alone receives more than 4 million complaints from customers every year. Those that go unresolved often end up in court, according to the Zhejiang High People's Court.

Online retail sales of goods and services in china were 5,155.6 billion Yuan (USD 773 billion) in 2016, an increase of 26.2 percent compared with the previous year. It increased by a further 33.4 percent year-on-year during the first six months of 2017, with online retail sales of physical goods accounting for 13.8 percent of the total retail sales of consumer goods. With this booming e-commerce market, there has been a sharp surge in e-commerce related disputes. The number of e-commerce related cases in Hangzhou courts stood at 10,000 cases last year, up from only about 600 in 2013.

The establishment of this court follows a successful pilot at four Hangzhou courts beginning in 2015. The courts were upgraded with technology that allow plaintiffs to file cases and upload evidence online. Plaintiffs can also appear at hearings via video link, if they did not live locally.

The Supreme People's Court established the court in April to handle five types of cases, primarily related to online shopping and intellectual property rights. It was formally approved by the central government last week.

Located in an existing court building in Hangzhou, the cyberspace court has accepted about 1,500 cases so far.

China Daily quoted Wu Fei, an attorney at Beijing Zhong Wen Law Firm, which specializes in online cases, as saying, “Setting up this type of court was inevitable. The rapid development of the Internet has brought lots of legal problems, including copyright infringements and e-commerce disputes."

Law professor Wang Sixin at Communication University of Chin said, "It is not just a court for online disputes but a centre to study new methods and legal solutions for the digital age.” 

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