It’s Time To Put Copyright Protection On The Agenda In The Chinese Short Video Market

摘要: Since short video is more intuitive and expressive way to convey information, it has become one the mainstream ways of expression in the Chinese social media, news and information market. However, an innumerable number of “carriers” and “scissors” that are brazenly copying others’ contents have also emerged on platforms such as Sian Weibo, WeChat and TouTiao, highlighting the importance of copyright protection.

(Chinese Version)

Zhong Weijie, chief producer of Jiemian News’ short video subsidiary Jianchang Video, should be quite excited to obtain the first copyright register certificate for short video we media in China. After all, it was still suffering from copyright violation a month ago.

This is actually a very special case. According to Jiemian News’ statement, Freezing Point (Bingdian), a weekly supplement to the newspaper China Youth Daily, partially adapted Jianchang Video’s short video “Japanese Living in Nanjing” into its feature report “Japanese in Nanjing”. However, it took Jianchang Video to gather necessary information and make the video. After rounds of negotiation, they settled the conflict through written apology.

Had Jianchang received the certificate earlier, this incident might have ended in a completely different way.

“Carriers” and ”scissors” abound in the Chinese short video market 

Short video has become one of the most popular concepts in China’s content innovation sector recently. Since it is more intuitive and expressive way to convey information, short video has increasingly become one the mainstream ways of expression in the Chinese social media, news and information market.

Statistics suggest that the number of active users of short video service has kept rising rapidly since 2015. As of December 2016, there was already over 50 million active users in the Chinese short video market. Zhang Jianfeng, senior vice president of Yixia Technology, revealed that the total view times of all its platforms’ short videos increased by 740 per cent year-on-year.

The burgeoning development of the short video market can also be told from capital investors’ keen interest in the sector. It is reported that there were over thirty merger & acquisition cases in 2016, the total financing volume of all types of short video projects reached RMB 5.37 billion. Some of the well-known investment firms include: Sequoia Capital, Zhen Fund and Matrix Partners, etc.

However, the Chinese short video market seems to be developing in an unrestricted manner. In previous reports, we’ve pointed out that an innumerable number of “carriers” and “scissors” that are brazenly copying others’ contents have emerged on platforms such as Sian Weibo, WeChat and TouTiao. Although they help promote short videos to some degree, they’ve never cared about matters such as copyright and copyright statement.

Zhong Weijie and his Jianchang Video is one of the victims of such “carriers”. According to Zhong, some of the most prevalent “copyright infringement” behaviors include: cutting the opening and closing parts, downloading, using and circulating others’ contents without permission, etc. For original content producers, the potential benefit is one thing, but proper respect towards their work is more important.

Not only Jianchang Video but also other high-quality PGC-based short video producers, including YiTiao, ErGeng, etc., have to face copyright infringement. A survey suggests that over 94.94 per cent of people are willing to put in time and energy to participate in copyright protection. However, original content producers’ capacity is too limited against copyright infringement.

Many PGC-based short video producers have already put copyright protection on the agenda

Wen Jin, founder of short video platform MF+, and Zou Jianhua, party secretary and vice director of China Copyright Protection Center, together announced during the First China Audio and Video Contents Copyright Protection Summit held on the last day of February that Jianchang Video had received the first copyright register certificate in China.

With the certificate, Jianchang will have a unique DCI code for each new original video it uploads and can trace the video no matter how it is edited, cut or adapted and how much time goes by.

Not only short videos, but also the innovation, screenplay, background music and actors/actresses behind it are protected under the DCI framework.

According to Zhang Jiandong, head of Digital Copyright Level Dept. of China Copyright Protection Center, the internet not only creates the information era, but also makes copyright infringement possible. In response, China Copyright Protection Center has established an entire system of infrastructure to protect the legitimate interests of audio and video content producers.

MF+ also became the first third-party platform that’s qualified to register copyrights and provide copyright, distribution and legal service for audio and video content producers in China.

Wen Jin, CEO of MF+, believed that the producing and using scenarios of videos will become increasingly diverse in the future. Only by building a standard rule for the market and letting contents enter the market with their copyrights well-protected can the Chinese short video market grow in a healthy manner, thrive and create more market values.

Still, it takes much less time for people to realize the importance of copyright protection over short videos compared with the streaming music market. MF+ revealed to TMTpost that it had just be connected to China Copyright Protection Center’s entire system of infrastructure. Although only Jianchang Video received the certificate up till now, over 200 audio and video producers have already been registering for copyright protection.

China has just taken the first step in copyright protection of short videos

Different from overseas market, China has always been lagging behind in copyright protection, whether for online music, film and TV series, or literature, etc. Chinese users and consumers’ awareness for copyright protection is still weak. Therefore, copyright protection has just started on the eve of the boom of the short video industry.

According to Zhong, no Chinese short video producers has ever made any profit through copyright. Most short video producers’ business still relies highly on ads and e-commerce platforms. Liu Xingzhe, Copyright Center of Pear Video, also pointed out once that short video producers couldn’t make much profit from copyright. In their copyright purchase practice, they found that even leading short video producers such as BBC only charged around 100 dollars for each short video.

However, this doesn’t mean that copyright is like chicken ribs in the short video market. On the contrary, proper copyright protection will not only create a healthy market environment for original video producers, but also be vital for short video distribution platforms’ development.

There’s an obvious trend in the Chinese short video market: “traffic is increasing gathered around the head”. In other words, a minority of PGC-based platforms are attracting the majority of traffic and people’s attention. Therefore, their contents will become exactly what distribution platforms need most. So it is likely that the future short video market may witness fierce competition for super IPs.

This trend is proved as major short video platforms have stopped focusing much attention on the number of short videos uploaded in their strategy. It is reported that TouTiao has quietly tightened the monitoring over PGC, so that PGC’s original information will be automatically synchronized and channels that brazenly “copy” and “cut” others’ original contents will be restricted from withdrawing their profit, and their behaviors will be strictly monitored and tracked.

For Wen, MF+ was established to not only help content entrepreneurs distribute and protect copyright, but also maximize the value of “unused materials”.

“It is typical to leave some materials unused when recording and editing short videos. Suppose you have a fifty-minute video, but you may edit and cut it into five-minutes-long. Therefore, 90 per cent of the material is unused. MF+ want to create a platform and help short video producers to extract value out of these unused materials,” Wen told TMTpost.

It is, of course, worth looking forward to. However, it may take a couple years before the Chinese short video market can go away from unrestricted development and develop in a healthy and orderly manner. After all, it’s not an easy thing to protect copyright in any field at any time.

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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Han Pei, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.

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