Return News

Lifang Win the Infront v. Sina Defamation Dispute Case

Release time:2008-10-23

On December 23, 2007, the Infront Sports & Media (China) Co., Ltd (hereinafter “Infront”) v. SINA Corporation (hereinafter “Sina”) defamation case was heard in the Haidian People’s Court. Lifang attorneys Mr. Xudong Liu and Mr. Yong Deng represented Infront and the case was concluded with the court ruling that Sina apologize to Infront for its false reports.

Infront is the exclusive global media and marketing partner for China’s national football teams until the end of 2010. In July 2007, Chinese man’s national team failed to enter the quarter final in the 2007 Asian Cup. Against this background, Sina published in its sports webpage of 2007 Asian Cup special coverage an sports review entitled “Secret Battle Led to Football Failure and Infront Intricacy Brought Disaster to CFA” (hereinafter “infringing article”), which says to the effect that the contract between the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and Infront offended the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) because the exclusive agent of AFC, the WSG, became unable to butt in the Chinese football market. Therefore in the games, the Chinese team had got unfavorable arrangement in all areas from grouping, schedule to referees, which may to some extend leading to Chinese team’s being knocked out during the preliminary stage. The article also claims that Infront is suffering from bad business performance, internal struggle and financial crisis so that the company did not make good the promise of enormous money support to the Chinese team, which may also have an impact on the outcome of the preliminary matches. The article was immediately posted in several other websites after its publication. Infront applied to notary authority for evidence preservation notarization three days after they noticed the infringing article.

Infront protested the above false report by mail to Sina, and then filed the suit with Haidian People’s Court when Sina failed to provide a satisfactory reply. Sina countered in the hearings that the infringing article was merely to provide the readers with the viewpoints of the media. The contents were not improper for a review article, and the writers were exercising the rights of criticism, comment and supervision. And the writing was done after interviews and verification of facts and thereby did not constitute defamation to Infront. However, Sina did not provide any evidence to the court within the due time limit for producing proof. Sina tried to do so after the due time limit expired, but the court did not adopte the evidence because attorneys of the plaintiff refused to exam them.

After hearing, the Haidian People’s Court believed that the public dissemination of false or insulting remarks which degrade a right-holder’s social estimation constitutes damage to the right-holder’s reputation. In light of the obvious negative impact of the disputed article contents and under the circumstances that Sina failed to provide any source or objective basis for said contents, Infront is justified to request that Sina be liable to defamation and make public apology to Infront. The court granted Infront’s request and ruled that Sina publish a statement of apology in their Sports Channel homepage with characters of the same size as of the other body texts and that said statement shall remain there for seven days. Sina issued the statement on December 10, 2007 expressing its sincere apology to Infront.

Lawyer’s Note: Valid and effective evidence is the key to success in any litigation. In the present case, the infringing article is in a webpage which could be deleted at any time. The plaintiff swiftly applied for evidence preservation after they discovered the tort and their claims won the support of the court. The defendant, on the contrary, provided no evidence to support any of their several counter arguments. And the court did not adopt the proof they did submit after the expiration of time limit. Article 2 of Several Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on Evidence in Civil Proceedings provides that “[w]here any party cannot produce evidence or the evidence produced cannot support its claims, the party which bears the burden of proof shall be liable for any unfavorable consequences.” Article 34 of the same document provides that “[t]he parties concerned shall submit evidence to the people’s court within the time limit for producing evidence; in case of failure to submit evidence during the time limit, the party concerned shall be deemed as giving up the right to produce evidence. The evidence submitted beyond the time limit shall not be examined during the hearings, except that the opposing party agrees to the contrary.” Therefore, evidence collection and preservation and doing both in a timely fashion are the key to success in any lawsuit.

Contributed by Yong Deng from Lifang & Partners

Copyright © 2020      Lifang Partners    京ICP备09037220号-1      京公网安备11010102000452号