Mituo wins copyright lawsuit requiring attribution for free software

Borsam IP
China IP Today

China’s Supreme People’s Court on November 15 ruled on a computer software dispute that the Henan Construction Association stop the copyright infringement, apologize, and pay monetary compensation for its unlawfully using a website development software developed by Changsha Mituo Information Technology Co., Ltd. without attribution.


Mituo, the holder of a copyright to a web builder made available for free public download, enforces a copyright license on its website to require attribution, including Mituo’s logo and website, from any users of its services. A paid version of the web builder priced at 6,999 yuan ($1,100) was also provided under a discrete license on its website allowing users to use the software without attribution, in addition to maintenance, troubleshooting, and other services to be provided by Mituo.


Mituo filed in March 2021 a copyright lawsuit in the Zhengzhou Intermediate People’s Court of Henan province against the Henan Constrution Association accusing the organization of using the free version of the web builder without attribution and violating the copyright license between the parties. The court agreed with Mituo’s argument and ordered the Association to stop the infringement, apologize, and pay Mituo 11,000 yuan ($1,700) in damages.


Both parties appealed the decision to the Supreme People's Court. Plaintiff Mituo claimed more damages due to the Association’s unlicensed use of its web development software. The Association claimed the invalidity of Mituo’s copyright license and the company to be a “troll” filing many similar copyright cases against companies.


The Supreme People's Court, as the court of second instance, holds it to be legal and valid for Mituo to require attribution in its license copyright even though the attribution requirement clause can be deemed as an unequal standard clause.


In this case, the Supreme People’s Court attempts to strike a balance between protecting copyright holders’ rights and preventing them from abusing and exploiting their rights.

Source: China IP Today