China’s first Internet Court

On 18 August, China has officially launched its first “Internet Court” in Hangzhou, which city is known as the Chinese e-commerce capital, and is home to Internet giants such as Alibaba and NetEase. The name “Internet Court” has a two-fold meaning: First, this court specializes in resolving Internet-related cases including disputes regarding contacts of online shopping, services and microfinance loans, Internet copyright disputes and domain name disputes etc. Second, all court proceedings in this court can be conducted via an Internet platform. Located in a normal court building in Hangzhou shared with another local court, the Internet Court is nevertheless ready to accept cases filed electronically from all over the country, to hold online mediations, to examine electronically submitted evidence, to hold oral hearings with litigants via video conference, to deliver judgements and to accept applications for enforcement orders, all via Internet.

The establishment of the Hangzhou Internet Court is an attempt to meet the challenges arising in the recent development of Internet-related legal disputes, such as the increasing ubiquitousness of online disputes and the large geographical distance between involved parties. It is reported that, as courts in Hangzhou accepted about 600 e-commerce-related cases in 2013, this number has rapidly risen to more than 10,000 in 2016. Already in 2015, four district courts in Hangzhou launched a pilot project using online platforms to conduct the complete court proceedings in cases relating to e-commerce and Internet copyright etc. Thereafter, 11 courts in the same province joined the project. Up to this June, more than 22,000 cases had been accepted via these platforms, and the online oral hearings lasted 0,5 hours on average. During a trial operation from 15 May to 15 August this year, the Hangzhou Internet Court had accepted 2,605 cases and concluded 1,444 of them, with an average case duration of 32 days.

Apparently, the Internet Court may significantly improve the efficiency of the court proceedings and help save time and costs for the litigants. Furthermore, the electronic platform of the Internet Court can easily adapt to and take advantage of the current technological development. For instance, evidence in form of electronic data can be conveniently submitted and saved via the electronic platform; a speech recognition system is integrated in the electronic platform to automatically generate written records of oral hearings; and judges may even draft judgements with the aid of artificial intelligence technology.

On the opening day, the first case heard by the Hangzhou Internet Court concerned a copyright infringement dispute between an Internet writer and the Hangzhou-based web portal NetEase. It can be expected that, in the future, more and more copyright-holders will be encouraged to utilize this convenient and cost-efficient Internet Court to enforce their rights on the Internet. The Internet Court will make lawsuits as convenient as online shopping, so promised a court official.

Here is a link to the English version of the website of the Hangzhou Internet Court:

https://www.netcourt.gov.cn/portal/main/en/index.htm?spm=a1z8s.8020632.0.0.77194b47D1ar4T

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