Reshuffling China's online video-sharing industry amid copyright protection

08:17, January 10, 2011      

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Just about two months ago, with a few clicks of the mouse, Chen Ying was able to watch her favorite American TV series, The Vampire Diaries or Gossip Girl, online for free.

Like Chen, an employee of a foreign-invested company in Shanghai, many U.S. TV series fans in China have little choice but to watch video clips online because domestic cable channels do not broadcast copyrighted ones. Some even volunteer to upload clips onto video-sharing websites without any charges.

But now Chen can rarely find such unauthorized online videos of foreign TV series.

In November 2010, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) announced a ban on any forms of trading and supplying unauthorized foreign TV series.

Along with the ban, the Ministry of Culture launched a six-month nationwide crackdown on counterfeiting in October to halt the theft of intellectual property rights (IPRS) and promote public awareness in IPRS protection.

In response, China's major video-hosting websites, including, and, removed unauthorized foreign TV series videos.

A podcastor, using an online name "Xueselaoxie" on the Nasdaq-listed, said some 7,000 unauthorized videos of American TV series he had uploaded were deleted by the website in one night.

To fans of foreign TV series, the ban might be a nightmare. But to the country, it was an important step in fighting IPRS infringement, said Li Yongqiang, assistant to CEO of Beijing Baofeng Inc., a provider of online video-hosting service.

Similar regulations were issued earlier. But never had they received as many reactions as did this one, Li said.

"I checked some portals after the ban became effective. Some websites removed all the unauthorized videos of American TV series in just one night," Li said.

"I believe the entire online video-sharing industry had realized the importance of a healthy development environment, and people's awareness of IPRS will be raised," Li said.

Following the order from the central government, many provinces beefed up their efforts in cracking down on online IPRS infringement.

In northeast China's Jilin Province, the provincial copyright administration shut down two websites, and, after they were found illegally providing unauthorized videos of South Korean movies.

The ban has resulted in a reshuffle of online video-sharing industry in China, with major domestic websites gearing up to offer copyrighted imports of TV series and films.

Sohu TV offered many copyrighted online videos of American TV series, including Gossip Girl, the Big Bang Theory and Nikita, after signing agreements with Warner Bros.. signed agreements with three major South Korean TV stations - MBC, KBS and SBS. It has also purchased rights from Warner Bros. to stream the hit movie "Inception," and charged five yuan (about 75 U.S. cents) for each view.

Additionally, is trying to produce its own films and TV series.

"From website operators to video producers, content copyright has become more crucial to the survival of video portals," said Li Shanyou, CEO of

"It's good to protect IPRS, but I would still like to watch the TV series online for free," said Cui Shan, a citizen of Changchun, capital city of Jilin Province.

"Definitely there are markets for foreign TV series or movies in China," Cui said. "I think those websites should import more copyrighted movies and keep offering them at a low price to win markets."

China now has more than 200 million video website users and the market is growing, said Li Yongqiang. More paid online video programs will emerge as the cost of importing authorized films and TV programs rises.

Li said it is likely that video-sharing websites join hands to import copyrighted programs from overseas in order to lower the cost of watching TV series online.

"But after all, the spirit of the Internet is to share resources. So as China's online video industry becomes more regulated, more resources should be encouraged to be shared for free on the Internet, " Li said.

Source: Xinhua(By Sun Xiaozheng, Zhang Duo, Chang Yishu)
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