Caixin
Apr 27, 2021 07:45 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Regulators Vow to Watch Out for Copyright Violations on Short Video Platforms

About 70 production companies, industry associations and majorstreaming platforms issued a joint statement threatening legal action unless short-video platforms and their content creators started to respect copyrights. Photo: VCG
About 70 production companies, industry associations and majorstreaming platforms issued a joint statement threatening legal action unless short-video platforms and their content creators started to respect copyrights. Photo: VCG

Social video sites including Nasdaq-listed Bilibili and Hong Kong-listed Kuaishou face increased copyright scrutiny, after Chinese regulators pledged to act on complaints from the entertainment sector about user-generated remixes and other techniques that use their work.

The National Copyright Administration will tighten supervision of infringement cases found on many short-video platforms, Yu Cike, head of copyright management, said at a Sunday briefing (link in Chinese). It will also strengthen protection of intellectual property in response to industry pressure, Yu said.

Many cases of infringement related to user-generated content have emerged as the booming short-video streaming sector gains momentum. Users adapt clips from movies and TV shows without copyright owners’ consent to produce videos like “Watch Harry Potter in One Minute” for postings on platforms such as ByteDance’s TikTok, Kuaishou and Bilibili. These in turn can generate huge income for their creators through the platforms’ content creation motivation programs.

The illegal video products could to some extent help promote movies or shows, but Gong Yu, CEO of iQiyi Inc., one of China’s major video-streaming sites, has said they have caused huge losses for platforms that stream long and legal content, and the negative impact outweighs their promotional benefits.

About 70 entertainment production companies, industry associations and major video-streaming platforms — including iQiyi, Tencent Video and Youku — issued a joint statement on April 9 (link in Chinese) threatening legal action unless short-video platforms and their content creators started to respect copyrights and stop recreating videos from original content.

Adding further pressure, another 500 directors, actors, actresses — including Li Bingbing and Yao Chen — and production staff, signed on April 23 a statement (link in Chinese) that urged short video recreators to obtain authorization before they went ahead with production. They added the offending short-video platforms should be compliant with relevant copyright regulations and they should remove unauthorized content.

Yu said at the Sunday briefing that it was a basic principle stipulated in copyright law that works should not be spread and used without permission, and that it applied to all films and TV works.

A Shanghai-based lawyer told Caixin that under the “safe harbor” principle — which generally protects internet service providers from the consequences of their users’ actions — platforms are exempt from legal responsibilities if they remove the content once they are advised about copyright infringement.

Mi Zhibin, a lawyer at Junzejun Law Offices in Beijing, previously told Caixin that it can be hard to protect copyright owners under the current legal system, as they would have to monitor infringements through technology. It also can be costly to sue every video account that appears to have infringed on copyright.

Yu said the authority will push platforms that carry short videos to improve their copyright protection systems to better handle complaints about copyright infringement.

TikTok, Kuaishou and Bilibili advise in their published user terms that the content uploaded by users needs to be either original or authorized. A source from TikTok has previously told Caixin (link in Chinese) that the company has been fighting against all types of copyright infringements.

“We have noted the concerns of the entertainment industry, and we’re in touch with relevant parties to adopt a more effective copyright protection mechanism,” the source said.

Contact reporter Timmy Shen (hongmingshen@caixin.com) and editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com)

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