Archive for the ‘China’ category

China bends online audio/video market in it’s favour

January 18, 2008

This article on Yahoo! News reports that the Chinese are struggling to deal with the huge increase in online piracy, purportedly having twice as many cases in 2007 than in 2005 and 2006 together.

It is notable that a senior official said that harsher punishments are required, but on reading on I noticed this which I must have missed last month: 

Last month, the government said that in a bid to curb pornography and politically sensitive online subjects, only state-owned firms would be allowed to apply for licenses to share videos and audio online.

Surely this is exactly the kind of behaviour that is contained in the WTO complaints made last year by the US. Under the guise of requiring censorship of inappropriate material it makes it hard for international firms to break into the domestic market. 


Music in China

December 17, 2007

That long tail chap Chris Anderson has been galavanting around for new ideas and got to China. His blog post about music in China covers the headline points about ringtones and Baidu but links to an article on The Register by a Beijing-based Western A&R guy. Sa Ding Ding (on Wrasse Records)A fascinating read it paints a vivid and informed picture of the state of the music industry in China today – the prevalance of recorded music piracy and why, despite millions of music consumers, it is hard to earn money from recorded music and even from 360-degree(esque) deals.

Among other factors:

Today’s China sees single-track, naked MP3s being Bluetoothed, file-shared, emailed, flash-disked, hard-drive-dumped and herded around the digital sphere in complete anonymity. Targeting potential listeners for your band in this scramble of a market is incredibly difficult because, in a great deal of cases, even your potential listener doesn’t know what he or she is listening to.

I wonder how much that happens elsewhere. Ed remains optimistic but it is hard to see how this particular potential market can be converted.

Antigua, China, the WTO and the US

August 31, 2007

Anyone in the online gambling industry, like my friend Joe Deacon, is well aware of the restrictions of the US gambling regulations. For those of you coming across this story for the first time there is a good timeline at Techdirt.

In short Antigua is arguing that the US is breaking the terms of its trade agreement with them by disallowing US citizens from placing bets. The WTO made a ruling in Antigua’s favour and since then the US has been trying all manner of tactics to wriggle out of liability even to the point of unilaterally altering the terms of the trade agreements to exclude online gambling.  

This story does get crazy though. Antigua is pushing for the WTO to rule that as compensation for US breaking the trade agreement Antigua may infringe copyrights of music/film. Aside from being an unusual and headline-grabbing form of compensation it is fraught with mis-application. Firstly it might be prohibited by Antiguan copyright laws and secondly how would Antigua ensure that the copyright owner is US avoidnig inadvertant copyright infringement on content from another country.

It is hard to take this situation seriously but will no doubt get some press as it plays out.

Meanwhile the US has requested that the WTO make a ruling on the complaint against China regarding copyright piracy made a few months ago. The complaint is not only about copyright infringment but includes issues relating to local Chinese law putting Western companies at a disadvantage in the distribution of entertainment products. More here.

Car copying in China

August 29, 2007

It’s not digital piracy but following Chinese IP issues is something I like to keep up with. The BBC reports that BMW and DaimlerChrysler have made claims that a Chinese carmaker has copied their designs, and that they may commence legal action.

China piracy – a brief look at the Sinascape

August 7, 2007

Every time I start to write about China it feels like there are too many things going on at once and the challenge is to pick the one or two key points worth talking about. I came across this article on Gary Gang Xu who has written a book on the current state of Chinese cinema.

Xu fills out the detail on the power struggle between US and Asian cinema which was understandably missing from MPAA’s report published last year (and re-iterated this year by the local China Film Copyright Association).

Xu tells us that pirating Hollywood films is widely tolerated – no surprised there. But what is more interesting is how Chinese films are not ignored by the pirates (as some sources have suggested) but are widely pirated and act as widely distributed adverts for a subsequent TV series bearing the same name. Apparently that is where the directors make their money, althout Xu also tells us that TV series are widely pirated too!

The change in the direction of the flow of cultural goods – i.e. historically from US to Asia, and now in both directions – may in the future provide an impetus to Chinese content owners to press for more rigorous protection of their copyrighted material.

The Musically newsletter recently reported on Music Label Competition in China and talked about how the “Chinese diaspora” may be a large future market for the music emanating from Chinese/Hong Kong/ Taiwan labels which currently constitues 60%  of the Chinese recorded music market (80% according to some other sources).

The first commercial music download services are launching, with locally priced subscriptions. Digital makes up at least 30% of revenues for labels. The expected popularity of mobile services makes it slightly easier to police soem casual piracy.

But when these Chinese labels start selling throgh digital services to Chinese overseas they may start to get an inkling of what their revenues might increase to if they could sell to the domestic market. At this point self-interest would dictate that they seek to minimise losses from piracy and turn to the government to take copyright issues and enforcement seriously.

With no obvious model to benefit from piracy like the pirated films promoting tv, and the other film model whereby Hollywood remakes Chinese films, Chinese music producers clearly have a different set of problems and interests which may be more aligned with the interests of the global recording industry than the Chinese moviemakers’ interests are aligned with the MPAA. 

Bill Gates says software piracy has worked for Microsoft

July 19, 2007

Every now and then one of these stories pops up. Yep, Microsoft used piracy to their advantage to try and get their products embedded in the Chinese user community, but they are still committed to fighting piracy. Many people have thought Linux would destroy Microsoft’s attempts to expand in China but clealry not (check this out seven years ago in Salon).


June 28, 2007

When I did a China update before I saw a large spike in reader interest. So, following China’s acquisition of a $3bn stake in Blackstone, the US private equity company, the ramifications of which are still being discussed, it seemed a good time to revisit China.

There has been much to and fro-ing between the US and China, what with the WTO activity, and now there is also a pact on physical piracy data. Not before time since China is behind 93% of euro cd piracy according to Billboard

In music the mobile market is picking up in China driven not least by realistic pricing, huge numbers of handset owners and a degree of distrust of online payment mechanisms meaning consumers lean towards the operator-controlled billing. An interesting aside is that there has been moves to adopt Western mobile standards  in China.

There has been much copyright related legal activity with Baidu and Yahoo! China and there are other similar services online already, as well as talk of plans from Baidu to expand overseas.
Another interesting aside is Google’s testimony on China which can be read here.  

After all this criticism the Chinese launched a 2007 Action Plan which may be aimed at tackling protectionist measures in the US. (more detail on the Plan here)

So, battle lines are being drawn at the same time as increases in trade and investment. With internet penetration at 10%, and that already equating to an online audience of 60m, there is huge potential in this market but the question remains how to make digital entertainment pay.