Tag Archives: alibaba

Varied Results for Organizations Who Want Off the World’s Notorious Markets List

Following on from the MPAA’s submission of international offenders who fail to respect American intellectual property to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the office today released its annual list of “notorious markets,” designed to name and shame those included into cleaning up their act. As has become the norm, it provided relief for some, and throws down the gauntlet for others to up their efforts in the year ahead.

The idea is simple enough: flag organizations and online platforms who facilitate the unlicensed use of American intellectual property.

Seal of United States Trade Representative Exective OfficeBy putting these companies and sites on show for all to see, the USTR forces them to choose a path; either commit to improving the legality of their site by removing content and practices that infringe upon intellectual property rights, or confirm that they have no interest in respecting the law and expect the appropriate authorities to come calling.

Marking the importance of protecting those IP rights, the office’s Ambassador Michael Froman had this to say about the 2014 out-of-cycle report:

“American innovation fuels our economy.  Intellectual property protects the contributions and livelihoods of the 40 million Americans whose jobs are supported by intellectual property-intensive and associated industries. The theft we’re shining a light on today is detrimental not only to creators and inventors, but also to consumers.”

The report singled out entities like Spain’s seriesyonkis.com, China’s Xunlei, and software provider Aiseesoft for their positive progress on curbing infringing content on their respective platforms, since appearing on the list’s 2013 edition.

Providing these positive results is an important element to the report, placed prominently at the front as an example to those who find themselves on the notorious list further in. A prominent example held up by the press is Alibaba, whose subsidiary Taobao facilitated counterfeit operations around the time the Notorious Markets list came into existence. Since then Alibaba has made significant efforts to clean house and went on to make a record debut on the New York Stock Exchange last year.

On the other side of the coin, companies that didn’t make it off the offender’s list must redouble their efforts. The gap between expectation and reality can sometimes be wide, however, as demonstrated in the case of VKontakte. The Russian social network remains on the list despite appealing its presence after it took steps to curb pirated content sharing. But as we discussed in February, VKontakte has made only limited attempts to deal with this illegal activity, and it will evidently take much more for it to reach legitimacy in the eyes of U.S. rights holders.

In the end, legitimacy is exactly what the Notorious Markets list is all about. It recognizes that the copyright economy is worth more than $1 trillion to the United States and a major provider of jobs around the country, and presents those that undermine that value for all to see.

If an organization that appears on the list has no interest in becoming a legitimate business in the eyes of the law, they will of course continue on their path of piracy, in which case more substantial legal power needs to be wielded to remove that threat.

For those who value their business credibility, however, the USTR is simply showing some tough love. Clean up your act, prove your commitment to valuing intellectual property, and next year perhaps your company can be held us as a positive example to follow, rather than an offender to avoid.

China Walks the Line Between Celebrity and Censorship

When it comes to controlling content, the Chinese government is more vigilant than most. A familiar frenemy to most major U.S. tech companies, it frequently clashes with the likes of Google to filter our search results and content that it finds objectionable (which doesn’t take much).

While the country undoubtedly wants the connections and revenue that come with attracting such major brands and services to its shores, the commitment to freedom of information that they bring is far less appealing.

China flag in front of aerials

Can China continue to obstruct digital airwaves? | Image Credit: Mark Tollerman

Now it appears that TV and movies will be the next content frontier on which this China censorship battle will be fought.

Through a series of convoluted red tape measures, Chinese internet service providers who plan to air imported shows will be subject to increased scrutiny and editing before popular titles like “The Big Bang Theory” and  “Breaking Bad” can hit China’s screens. For companies who could otherwise immediately serve up these headline shows to an eager domestic audience the delays are likely to grate.

The piracy angle to this story is perhaps the most frustrating, given that availability is such a crucial part of the formula for convincing viewers to use legal services. When shows aren’t available via a legitimate platform, the chances are that they can be accessed through an illegitimate one. In this case everyone except the piracy site loses, as legal services are denied a paying viewer, revenue is lost to the original creator, and even China’s government fails in its mission to censor an imported show. Many titles on piracy sites simply run in their original, unedited form, potentially cutting the government out of the loop entirely.

This comes at a time when China’s curious mix of capitalism-backed Communism has its own media giants extending their reach into Hollywood. Alibaba, for one, is coming off the back of a hugely successful IPO and a strong financial quarter, with a significant part of its plans to capture new users lying in the U.S. creative industries. On the export side, American studios are showing huge interest in further exploration of the Chinese movie-going market, where imported films are already subject to quota yet make up a little less than half of the country’s box office.

With such a rapid acceleration of its entertainment industry on both the import and export front, China’s government is going to have to balance an increasing number of spinning plates as it seeks to censor incoming content, curb piracy that circumvents its efforts, and still exploit the economic value that the creative industries present.