CEO of Youku Tudou Victor Koo (Gu Yongqiang) speaks at a press conference of a campaign against copyright violations in Beijing on November 13. Photo: CFP
Baidu Inc, China's largest search engine company, and Shenzhen-based software company QVOD Technology were identified as the top two violators of copyrighted video content for 2013 and have both been ordered to stop the copyright infringement and slapped with a penalty of 250,000 yuan ($41,225) each, an official with the National Copyright Administration said Monday.
The two companies are typical examples of copyright infringement through media players, a crackdown on which is a must amid the country's efforts to curb online video piracy, Yu Cike, head of the department of copyright management of the administration, told a media briefing on Monday afternoon, according to information portal sohu.com.
An investigation into Baidu and QVOD's alleged copyright infringement was initiated on November 19 after receiving reports from a group of companies including Youku Tudou, LeTV, Sohu and Tencent, according to the administration, which revealed results of the investigation showed the two companies have committed infringement of copyrighted content via their media players.
This led to the punishment decision made Friday, the administration noted, referring to the 250,000 yuan penalty for both companies, the highest amount a copyright violator can be fined.
Nine other cases were included in a list of the top 10 crackdowns on online piracy in the country this year as well.
In November, an alliance was announced including major Internet video companies Youku Tudou, Sohu Video, Tencent Video and LeTV to fight online piracy, seeking up to 300 million yuan in losses incurred by copyright violations from Baidu and QVOD.
"The alliance welcomes [the administration's] findings and decisions, which clearly demonstrate the government's determination to protect online video copyrights," Youku Tudou said in a statement sent to the Global Times late Monday.
"The alliance also calls on Baidu and QVOD to stop all pirating actions in order to help build a positive online and mobile video ecosystem," the statement said.
What is almost as noteworthy as the penalty announcement are Baidu's two separate statements before and after the media briefing.
In the statement posted on the official Weibo of Baidu's media player in the morning, the company said the media player has launched an all-round transition toward a platform offering original, copyrighted content since October.
In the statement released after the penalty announcement, Baidu emphasized it has been taking a raft of measures to combat piracy that include halting its media player's offering of peer-to-peer file sharing services for non-partner sites, which is seen as one of the biggest sources of piracy.
Without directly responding to the penalty announcement, QVOD also said in a statement on its official Weibo Monday that it will continue efforts to protect copyrighted content.
The amount of the penalties is small, but the decision itself signals the government's tougher stance on curbing video piracy, which certainly bodes well for the health of China's Internet video arena, Xu Hao, an industry analyst with Beijing-based iResearch Consulting Group, told the Global Times Monday.
Baidu has shown it is willing to change its stance in response to major video content providers' fight against its media player's copyright infringement, which may result in a compromise between Baidu and other video sites over potential revenue distribution for copyrighted content played via Baidu's media player, Xu commented.