China’s Largest Stock Image Provider Fined Over False Photo Copyright Claims

April 18, 2019 Updated: April 19, 2019

SINGAPORE—Visual China Group Co Ltd, the largest Chinese stock images provider, said on April 18 that a subsidiary has been fined by internet authorities, days after it falsely claimed copyright of prominent images.

Internet authorities in China’s Tianjin City slapped a fine of 300,000 yuan ($44,720) on the company for violating the country’s cyber security laws, Visual China said in a filing to the Shenzhen stock exchange.

On Friday, Visual China, which partners with U.S. photo agency Getty Images, shut its website and apologized after it falsely claimed copyright of images such as the first photo of a black hole and China’s national flag. The news had caused its shares to slump by the maximum 10 percent daily limit.

The topic “Visual China apologizes” was the most read one on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, with over 250 million views.

According to its website, Visual China has over 40 million editorial images and 1.25 million videos.

On Thursday, its shares closed 4.4 percent lower, lagging the performance of broader Chinese stock indices.

Political control of the internet has tightened in recent times, with demands that companies tighten oversight of “harmful information” which could range from vulgar to politically sensitive content.

Elliot Papageorgiou, the Shanghai-based head of the IP practice at law firm Clyde & Co., said Visual China‘s use of the black hole image was embarrassing due to the photo’s high profile.

By Lee Chyen Yee. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.