Can lawsuits slow piracy in China? We may soon find out.
Top Chinese video sites Youku Tudou, Sohu Video, Tencent Video license their content lawfully and sometimes create their own programs. Now, with the backing of the Motion Picture Association of America, they’ve filed suit against Baidu, China’s dominant search portal, and a smaller competitor for spreading links to unlicensed content. The suits seek about $50 million in damages, according to a story in The Hollywood Reporter.
Executives from the plaintiff companies and organizations took turns during the press conference in Beijing on Wednesday talking about the cost of piracy. China Daily quoted Charles Zhang, chairman and CEO of Sohu Group:
We cannot keep competing, because where thieves and robbers are having their way, law-abiding companies cannot survive,” Zhang said. “We may even have to exit the online video industry if such practices continue.”
Baidu issued a statement to media Wednesday saying that it places great importance on copyright protection and outlining technical measures it has introduced to fight piracy. With the number of mobile Internet users in China expected to reach 648 million within the year, U.S. companies are eager to establish legitimate platforms for distributing content online to Chinese consumers, The Hollywood Reporter said.
China is one of the worst countries in the world for intellectual property theft, according to The Office of the United States Trade Representative. A USTR report this year said that despite national educational campaigns and increased legal efforts, widespread online piracy “affects industries involved in the distribution of legitimate music, motion pictures, books and journals, video games, and software.”