BIZCHINA> Review & Analysis
Sinking the pirates
By Wang Xing (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-09-15 15:31

From the smoother traffic in Beijing and mostly blue skies that pleased both residents and tourists, the Olympic Games made China a better place.

Similar improvements were also seen on the Internet, where the country has surprised many by successfully curbing rampant online piracy of Olympics-related content.

According to the automatic monitoring system of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a majority part of illegal online broadcasts of Olympic-related content were found outside China, while domestic violations were limited and dealt with rapidly and effectively.

The results belied the IOC's earlier estimates that most online piracy would occur in China, which critics regard as a pirating hotspot.

Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the 29th Olympic Games Coordination Commission, says China's anti-piracy efforts helped lay the foundation for the success of the Beijing Olympic Games. He says the anti-piracy efforts of the Chinese government set a good example for global anti-piracy work.

According to China's General Administration of Press and Publication, 4,066 cases of illegal broadcasts of Olympic-related content had been found around the world by Aug 18. Among them, about 90 percent were found in the United States, most of which happened on online video websites such as

Yan Xiaohong, vice-minister of the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC), says the Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee had a close partnership monitoring the unauthorized broadcasts.

He says the Chinese telecom regulatory authorities also kept a close watch on the broadcasting of unauthorized content, which enabled the country to delete illegal content as quickly as possible.

As one of the largest Games in history, the 2008 Beijing Olympics set a new record for broadcast revenue, which was estimated to amount to $1.7 billion, compared to $1.5 billion generated from the Athens Olympics in 2004.

The higher figure was partly boosted by the increased popularity of Internet viewing., the Internet arm of China Central Television, the country's top broadcaster, reportedly spent 20 million yuan for the right to broadcast Olympic-related content on the mainland. The website made 600 million yuan in three months during the Olympic Games, a big part of which came from reselling broadcast rights to eight Chinese websites including, and

Unlike traditional TV broadcasts, videos on the Internet can also be more easily copied, edited and pirated, posing a bigger threat to broadcasters whose money accounted for about half the IOC's revenue from the Olympic Games.

Last month, filed a suit against the Chinese website for a live broadcast of an Olympic torch relay leg without permission and asked for 4.1 million yuan in compensation. The news came one week after launched a similar lawsuit against Xunlei Technology, one of China's largest downloading and video sites and in which Google Inc has a stake. CCTV asked for 2 million yuan in compensation from Xunlei.

In the same month, IOC Vice-President Gunilla Lindberg urged the Swedish government to help prevent what she called "the rampant piracy of the opening ceremony", as most of the downloads of Olympic-related contenton the Internet had been traced to the Pirate Bay file-sharing website whose operators and servers are located in Sweden.

In response, the notorious website later temporarily renamed itself Beijing Bay as a joke.

However, experts say the legal disputes between websites and traditional content providers cannot be easily resolved and the sectors have to find new business models from which both can benefit.

NBC, the American television broadcaster, says last month that the key to curbing piracy is making the coverage broadly available through legal outlets across broadcast, cable, video-on-demand, mobile phones and online.

The company posted 2,200 hours of live coverage at during the Games and had been participating in YouTube's copyright filtering system, under which NBC would flag the authentic Olympic videos in advance.

In addition, the IOC also opened a channel on YouTube at and had been using YouTube's copyright filtering technology to manage its content.

"It is the first time that an online video sharing website has participated in the Olympic Games and we have received a great result from the deal," says Li Shanyou, CEO of, a Chinese online video website that spent tens of millions of yuan in acquiring rights from to stream Olympic-related content. "I think companies like us will play a bigger role in similar events in the future."

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