Copyright infringement here; copyright infringement there; copyright infringement everywhere! But fear not 20th century hold-outs, for the U.S.A.’s very own Motion Picture Association of America is at the vanguard of another international intellectual property war. That’s right folks, the MPAA and a handful of media companies joined forces to fight the mighty Baidu – one of China’s largest Internet companies valued at $45.7 billion. And last week, in David and Goliath fashion, the posse of analogues won a judgment against Baidu for…..drum roll…….$78,560. The plaintiffs had asked for $10 million. (Cue The Price Is Right loser “whomp, wah”.)
How does the saying go? Something like: Baidu probably wipes its @$$ with $78,560? Brass tax: If a proverbial slap on the wrist continues to be the outcome of costly, high-profile intellectual property lawsuits (a court-clogging waste), then why is nearly every nation cowering when it comes to creating copyright laws for the 21st century?
Now, before people get their knickers askew, let’s make two things clear before moving forward:
- I am not advocating for the proliferation of copyright infringement. The law is the law.
- I am not advocating for copyright trolling. It’s an unethical abuse of the law and courts.
So what am I saying? It is time to stop fighting online copyright infringement with old fashioned rules. It is time to start drafting and passing some smart Internet laws for the dominant digital marketplace.
Posse of Media Companies On The Hunt For Chinese Copyright Infringers
They’ve dubbed Baidu (think platform mashup of Google, Wikipedia and YouTube) the “top enabler of video piracy in China,” so in a show of solidarity YT, Sohu Video, Tencent Video, LeTV, MPAA, CODA, Wanda Films, English Media and LeTV Films banded together to take on Baidu and another Internet company, QVOD. The conglomerate, collectively, has launched about 100 legal actions, asking for a total of $49 million in damages.
Youku Tudou and Baidu
Youku Tudou is similar to Hulu and Netflix. It is an online video portal that pays to license television shows and movies. Youku Tudou is going balls out against Baidu because Baidu allegedly is making money off of 18 shows to which Youku Tudou has the exclusive rights. And lest you think it simply a matter of linking to videos, the plaintiffs insist Baidu is indeed hosting the material and profiting via its advertising program, Baidu Tuiguang (i.e., Google Adwords), as a result.
A Youku Tudou Spokesperson pleaded, “We call on Baidu to respect copyright and help build a virtuous online video ecosystem in China.”
Whenever asked for comments, Baidu keeps reminding: “We are willing to work with all parties and build a benign cooperation format that benefits internet users and the industry,” often adding that the company has reached agreements with other video content providers, and that they “continue to contribute in creating a benign Internet environment.”
Why Are U.S. Groups Getting Involved in This Case?
Apparently eager to attract Tinsel Town backing for the copyright crusaders’ endeavor, Sohu Chairman Charles Zhang, warned, “For American companies, many millions worth of content id being stolen…if this continues, they will never have a chance to make money in the china market.”
But he need not flail his hands too furiously, as Hollywood already has a sharp eye on the Chinese market. After all, not only is it the land of abundant piracy, but it also the largest Internet market in the world with approximately 591 million users. To give you an idea, that more than the total populations of the US, Canada and Mexico combined. By 2014? The Chinese mobile market is expected to reach 648 million. So you better believe state-side entertainment outlets are on top of it.