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Operation cracks down on virtual reality piracy

By Zhang Zhao | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-09 07:45

Law enforcement officials see increase in online infringements, making it tougher to find and penalize the culprits

With virtual reality gadgets and content becoming increasingly popular, a new type of piracy is emerging, according to industry insiders.

The National Copyright Administration has announced the 16 top cases investigated during this year's Jianwang Operation. The annual campaign targeting online piracy is conducted by a number of government departments and enforcement agencies.

One of the cases involves Beijing-based VR software developer OrangeVR. Founded in July 2015, the company is a major VR content distributor in China. It was found to have provided six unlicensed movies on its app since July last year, including Ant-Man and Fast & Furious 7.

As the owner of the copyright to those movies, the Motion Picture Association of America filed complaints against the company, which was later fined 30,000 yuan ($4,581).

The case is the first investigation by China's copyright authorities that involved pirated video content distributed on VR platforms, Science and Technology Daily reported.

"It is more difficult to collect evidence for pirated videos distributed through VR technology compared with traditional piracy," said Liu Lixin, an officer of the Integrated Law Enforcement on the Cultural Market in Beijing, who was responsible for the case.

"For the first time, our enforcement officers used VR devices to collect evidence."

Operation cracks down on virtual reality piracy

The fact that pirated content was broadcast via the app on mobile devices has also made it more challenging to collect evidence. Different to computers, where each webpage has a specific domain name, it is much more difficult to prove the pirated content belongs to a particular app, Liu explained.

The enforcement team used packet analyzing software to locate the content on OrangeVR's servers, which confirmed the company's infringement.

"Video piracy is expanding to the VR sector," said Li Junhui, a researcher from the Center for IPR Studies at China University of Political Science and Law. "It is piracy to broadcast video content without the authorization of the copyright owner, no matter in the emerging VR format or via traditional online platforms and discs."

In addition to VR piracy, the authorities face new challenges in many other areas where new technologies are applied, such as online livestreaming platforms and social media, Li said.

"Rights violations are taking place in new forms. For example, during online livestreaming shows, there can be IP rights infringement, and there can be violations of privacy or the right of reputation," he said. "Supervision will become more complex."

He suggested joint effort from the government, rights owners and the public to identify piracy, and called for an improved copyright database and licensing system.

Cui Jun, a partner at Beijing-based Deheng Law Offices, said the development of new technology has increased the possibility of online rights infringement and the difficulty of defending rights.

"We need to use the new technology to prevent rights infringement on one hand, and we probably need some breakthroughs in the designing of copyright system on the other hand," Cui said.

Enforcement officer Liu said, "Technological advancement is making our job harder, so we have to improve ourselves to respond quickly to the emerging infringement brought about by new technologies."

Since the campaign started in July, copyright authorities nationwide have seized 1.5 million pirated publications. They have shut down 1,655 websites containing pirated content and removed about 274,800 links.

The copyright authorities and police have cooperated in 37 criminal cases, involving illegal potential value of 69 million yuan.

Operation cracks down on virtual reality piracy

A man tries out a virtual reality game at the 2017 China International Consumer Electronics Show in Qingdao, Shandong province.Wang Haibin / For China Daily

(China Daily 11/09/2017 page23)

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