Online Video: Present and Future

By Max Klein | Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Political Context

After pampering you with marketing and media news for the past few months, allow me to begin this newsletter with a much-needed dose of politics, of the international persuasion.

Back in 2007 the U.S. Trade Representative brought a case against China in the WTO focused on three primary concerns: first, China’s restrictions on importing foreign entertainment materials such as books, CDs, movies, and DVDs; second, China’s restrictions on distributing foreign books and music electronically; and third, China’s lengthy government-mandated review process for foreign television shows, movies, and music distributed domestically.

These three distinct but interrelated issues riled U.S. and Chinese trade officials for the better part of two years, with other more run-of-the-mill disputes thrown into the mix (Chinese tires?!).

This December, the WTO ruled against China’s appeal, thereby validating the U.S.’s complaints against the Chinese government’s restrictions on foreign entertainment distributed on the Mainland.  After the WTO’s Appellate Body adopts the measures decided upon by the Organization’s officials, China will have 30 days to respond with what amounts to a plan of action to acquiesce to international demands.
Was that so painful?  Perhaps, but to the extent it helps us understand the current state of China’s online media marketplace and where it might be headed, I think we can stomach it.

China’s participation in international organizations means it must, in theory, protect the intellectual property of both domestic and foreign enterprises.  The Internet has long been a haven of shanzhai (copied) content readily available to even the least-savvy wangyou (literally ‘web friend,’ or internet user).  Video sites have often ignored international copyrights and posted versions of currently broadcasted TV shows and movies still showing in theaters.