2009 – A Copyright Turning Point for Video Sharing Websites?

Issue 30 Planned by Zhou Yi and Doris Li,[Copyright]


Since 2007, piracy issues concerning video sharing websites have caused extensive concern. The concept of video sharing and a “Safe Harbor” may help “draw a clear line of demarcation” between websites and piracy liabilities, however, infringement per se of videos is undisputed. Moreover, with more stringent video monitoring by copyright holders and the ensuing lawsuits, the “Safe Harbor” may not ensure websites prevail in all lawsuits in practical cases.


Though website users have a great demand for movies and TV shows, websites are not able to satisfy such demands due to video copyright issues. Piracy is deeply hurting the development of video websites. Zhang He, President of Joy.cn, became excited when speaking to a journalist with China IP: “Firstly, piracy is the biggest roadblock for a company going public.  In particular, it is impossible for a website with pirated American movies to get listed in the US. Secondly, as the 3G (third generation) era has arrived, video websites must, in order to access the market, meet the requirements of telecommunications operators that are very sensitive to copyright issues involving videos. Lastly, investors and advertisers are currently attaching great importance to copyright issues on video websites.”


In 2008, all large video sharing websites have begun voluntarily to hold out an olive branch to genuine videos. For example, Tudou.com has launched the “Heidou (Black Bean)” program and Ku6.com has begun to purchase a great number of genuine videos. Public opinion also believes that video sharing websites are transforming and some websites have even abandoned their video sharing concepts in their initial stages.


In 2009, each website started to scramble for the copyrights to some popular TV shows, such as My Chief and My Regiment, in a bid to hype their determination to use genuine videos. Youku.com even asserted that it had spent around 1 million Yuan in purchasing the show’s initial online broadcasting rights.


Regarding the practice, Youku.com has made it clear publicly in 2009 that it will be transforming into a “video portal.” Though copyright issues arising from the initial video sharing phase of the website remain, the use of genuine videos has become a consensus among video sharing websites for their future development.

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