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Movie piracy in China

The Scale of Copyright Infringements in China

The film and TV market in China are developing at a fast pace. In October 2020, China officially became home to the world's largest movie box office, announced The Hollywood Reporter[1]. Even during the pandemic, analysts predicted[2] that by the end of the year the Chinese film market will exceed 500 billion yuan (77 billion US dollars).

The rapid development of the film market has sharpened the problem of ever-evolving movie piracy in China. According to the data of the China Copyright Association[3], during the Spring Festival in 2019 (between 5 and 20 of February), there were 38,900 copyright infringements detected for eight popular films including Deadpool 2, The White Storm 2, Hotel Mumbai, and others. The total number of illegal views surpassed 82 million, and the estimated box office losses amounted to 787 million yuan (120 million US dollars).

Streaming platforms have also made film piracy more widespread in China. The National Copyright Administration of China in early 2020 monitored online piracy of two films: Lost in Russia and Bonnie Bears: Wild Life. During the Chinese New Year, they have detected 29,800 infringing links. Lost in Russia was pirated 11 seconds after its digital release.

New forms of piracy are also emerging in China, apps for movie streaming, for instance. A Beijing Business Daily Reporter discovered that a total of about 100 pirated film and TV applications are publicly sold on e-commerce platforms with the keyword “movie app.”[4]Users can buy it for as little as 6 yuan (less than 1 US dollar), and the highest price is only around 50 yuan ($7.65 USD).

Where to Start Anti-Piracy in China

Social media piracy in China is the first to be taken under control given that large Chinese YouTube and Facebook-like platforms with video content (bilibili.com, iqiyi.com, youku.com, v.qq.com, haokan.baidu.com to name a few) are responsive to copyright claims. However, the reporting procedure might require more details compared to provisions Western rights holders are used to, including passport copies and Chinese phone numbers.

It’s also worth mentioning the cloud service Baidu Netdisk, another big platform used for the distribution of pirated content in China. Due to Baidu Netdisk’s copyright policy, only those copyright violations are entitled to removal to which rights holders provide extensive evidence confirming the infringement: links location, proof of copyright ownership, detailed information about the reporting party, and others.

Baidu Netdisk has a legal obligation to block illegal files. However, the platform removes links poorly, which, in some cases, leads to legal proceedings. In 2019, Baidu was accused by Youku Tudou Inc. for not taking down infringing links with the film Eternal Love quickly enough, and so this Chinese tech giant became the first service of this kind to be held liable for copyright infringement in China. Beijing court ordered Baidu to compensate Youku 1.03 million yuan ($147,300 USD) in total[5].

Content Protection in China: What to Expect?

Copyright protection in China is grounded on the Copyright Law of the People's Republic of China, coupled with the signed Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. In recent years, the Chinese government and relevant authorities have begun to strengthen supervision of illegal content distribution. On November 11, 2020, China's National People's Congress approved amendments to the Copyright Law. The amendments will become effective as of June 1, 2021, and will include punitive damages for intentional copyright infringement, an increase in statutory damages, and civil fines[6].