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Court allows usernames to be sued

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

15:54, May 15, 2012

If someone's legal rights are infringed upon on the Internet and the violator's real name is unknown, can the plaintiff still take a lawsuit from cyberspace to the courts?

In the past, it would have been unthinkable because defendants' true identities are required in a trial according to Chinese law or else courts will not accept the cases.

But now online violators in East China's Jiangxi province can be sued first based on their virtual identities, such as their nickname on QQ, an instant communication tool.

Earlier this year, Huang Songhai sued Yu Xishui in the people's court in Poyang county of the province.

Huang said Yu used a fake name to publish insulting and malicious words to damage his reputation on Poyang Online, a local forum, and this affected his life.

The court helped Huang look for the defendant's real identity and found Yu was a legal worker in Poyang county. Finally, Yu was ordered to publish an apology letter online and delete what he had said.

This new hearing innovation is a pilot program launched by the provincial high people's court. In addition to the Poyang court, another four courts in Jiangxi have also participated in the program this year.

The judges help the plaintiff find violators using virtual names first and then confirms their real identities after the court has accepted the case, said Zhang Liezhong, an officer from the people's court in Jiangxi's Duchang county, one of the five courts that participated in the program.

"The number of online infringement cases has been rising with the rapid development of the Internet, but many violators are not punished, due to their vague identities," Zhang said.

To solve this problem, the court where he works established a courtroom dedicated to hearing online cases, which started receiving cases in April.

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