China’s online video platforms, normally at loggerheads as they battle for market share, have come together to condemn those who use their content for unauthorized highlight clips, synopses, and reaction reels — emergent formats that are becoming increasingly popular among the country’s young viewers.
In a joint statement Friday, over 70 streaming sites, production companies, and industry associations called for a boycott of videos featuring copyrighted content from films and TV dramas that has been re-edited by internet users. The signatories — which include dominant video-streaming platforms iQiyi, Tencent Video, and Youku — said they would take “focused” and “necessary” legal action against videos found to include unauthorized content.
With user-generated video platforms like Bilibili, Kuaishou, and Douyin — as TikTok is branded in China — entering the social media fray, a large number of content creators are producing millions of videos based on TV dramas and films. These best-of clips, mini reviews, and abridged versions of shows and films attract billions of views without directly benefitting the production companies behind them.
In Friday’s statement, the companies acknowledged the role of such videos as a creative outlet allowing viewers to consume the content they crave in a fraction of the regular runtime. However, they’re also infringing copyrights and, in some cases, misinterpreting the original work. Failing to police this unauthorized content, the companies warned, risks “gradually destroying the healthy ecosystem of the whole film and television industry.”
The companies implored content creators to seek and receive authorization before reproducing copyrighted content on any platform. “We appeal to the whole of society to report, delete, and block such content; prevent and boycott acts of infringement; and safeguard the rights and interests of the film and television industry together,” the statement said.
Previously, Gong Yu, the founder and CEO of iQiyi, had said in a media interview last year that, apart from some positive promotional effects, re-edited videos have meant huge losses for copyrighted films and dramas, and that iQiyi would take legal action where necessary to deal with the issue. In 2017, five production companies sued the popular social media account AmoGood, known for posting highly condensed film summaries on various platforms so users could “watch this film in X minutes,” for copyright infringement and economic losses.
China’s National Radio and Television Administration had released a notice on regulating re-edited videos as early as 2018. To help content creators reduce their legal risk, blogs and video tutorials share anti-infringement tips such as adding subtitles, redubbing, blending footage from many sources, and managing negative comments.
A former employee at a TV and film production company told Sixth Tone he had never encountered a content creator requesting authorization to use copyrighted material. “And there were far too many re-edited videos for us to file lawsuits against all of them,” he said.
Some producers have managed to harness the popularity of short videos by organizing “secondary production contests” for TV dramas. In 2020, the hit Chinese show “The Romance of Tiger and Rose” called on internet users to make their own 3-minute re-edited videos from existing entertainment footage, offering rewards of over 12,000 yuan ($1,800) to the winners.
Following the joint statement, some online have expressed concerns about the threat of lawsuits.
“I support protecting copyrights, but I hope they won’t take the one-size-fits-all approach,” one user commented under a related media post. “There are a lot of dramas that I started watching after being introduced to them by re-edited videos.”
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: People Visual)