Thursday, April 22, 2010

Youku Fingerprints Against Copyright Piracy and Can Advertisers Be Liable Too?

Loretta Chao wrote a good article for the WSJ (Asian edition April 21, 2010) about and its efforts to clean up its act toward copyrights. is the most popular video site in China (15.7 million unique daily visitors according to iResearch), followed by (12 million), (9.8 million) and (5 million).

Ms Chao points out that Youku's fingerprinting software costs roughly 146,000 US dollar to develop (identifying codes based on characteristics such as colour combinations or brightness) and that it is also used to remove prohibited content that is censored by the Chinese government.

Last year one could find very recent movies at Youku that were still in the cinema. At first sight this seems to be no longer the case. However, old movies such as the Godfather, Scarface and the English Patient can all be seen.

Youkou, Ms Chao writes, wants to attract more advertisers that don't want to be associated with copyright piracy. And it even might risky too from a legal perspective:

"Last year an antipiracy group of Chinese Internet companies filed a number of lawsuites against Youku in Chinese courts, including one that alleged that a Coca-Cola Co. ad had run on Youku accompanying a clip from a Chinese TV show that Youku hadn't licensed."

Whether an advertiser can be liable in case he advertises on a platform that is used by copyright infringers is a good question. It should be relevant if the advertiser knows or should have known that the platform is used predominantly for the distribution of copyrighted contents that are pirated. I would love to hear more about the copyright infringement case in which Coca-Cola was involved. If you know more about it, please let me know.

Ms Chao finishes on a realistic note that Youku's efforts are unlikely to improve piracy rates in China.

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