TV series meet new reality in copyright crackdown

By Hao Nan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-01 08:35
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TV series meet new reality in copyright crackdown
Major domestic websites have begun to increase copyrighted foreign TV content and produce their own films. [Photo/China Daily]

Regulator moves to clean popular but unauthorized videos from Web portals

Hot US television series like Gossip Girl, Big Bang Theory and The Vampire Diaries not only have Americans hooked, but also Chinese audiences half a world and a vastly different language away.

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But different from US fans who watch the popular programs on TV, most Chinese have little choice but to share them on the Internet because cable channels are not legally available.

Like self-help groups, volunteers upload videos to major domestic Web portals to be shared without cost.

But the "free lunch is very unlikely to continue", said an industry insider.

On Nov 12, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) announced a ban on trading and supplying unauthorized foreign TV series.

SARFT issued a similar regulation in 2009 for a wider range of videos on the Internet. In addition to TV series, it also included films and cartoons.

Youku, Tudou, Ku6, Xunlei and other popular domestic video websites have taken moves in response.

A large number of pirated videos have been removed. One famous podcast operator said most of his 7,000 videos of ongoing American TV series were deleted in one night. Just 400 remain.

"Due to the implementation of a national intellectual property strategy, authorities now pay much more attention to the copyright issue. It will be harder to watch unauthorized foreign TV series on the Internet," the insider noted.

In response, domestic video portals are gearing to offer copyrighted imports of foreign TV series and films.

TV series meet new reality in copyright crackdown

Youku signed agreements with three major South Korean TV stations - MBC, KBS and SBS - but made little progress on cooperation with American TV producers due to "higher royalty payments and strict content censorship (in China)", according to a video website executive.

Tudou is attempting to fill the gap by producing its own films and TV series.

Welcome Love to Visit is the portal's first Web drama, made at a cost 6 million yuan ($900,000).

The series will also be available in Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and other eight countries and regions. The highest overseas royalty for a single episode has reached $30,000.

"From website operators to video producers, content copyright has become more crucial to the survival of video portals," said Li Shanyou, CEO of the Ku6.