WeChat Takes the Lead in Cracking Down on Infringement of Intellectual Property of Short Videos

On Monday, World Intellectual Property Day, WeChat released the 2020 Intellectual Property Protection Data Report. According to the report, more than 33,000 short videos infringing intellectual property were deleted on WeChat last year, over 65,000 illegal personal accounts were canceled, and more than 410,000 clues were delivered to brand rights holders.

WeChat official accounts and applets dealt with 110,000 cases of information related to copyright infringement, and more than 5,000 games were intercepted. In addition, the platform has put 64,000 keywords, including over 30,000 trademark keywords into protection.

WeChat has always respected the intellectual property rights of third parties. In 2016, WeChat officially launched a brand rights protection platform, providing more efficient intellectual property protection channels for various brands. As of April 2021, a total of 426 brands were registered on the platform.

Its system combines active protection and passive protection with prevention and relief. Integrating a brand rights protection platform, a copyright protection plan and full electronic infringement complaint channels, the system covers all sections in WeChat, including personal accounts, official accounts, applets and videos.

To explain the system, WeChat held an exchange salon in Shanghai on April 23, providing detailed guidance and suggestions for brand owners.

They also noted that the intellectual property protection mechanism will be strengthened in the future, so as to effectively crackdown on violations of legitimate rights, and create a more formal online social environment.

The infringement of intellectual property of short videos caused dissatisfaction among long video platforms earlier this month.

On April 9, 53 film and television companies, 5 video platforms and 15 film and television industry associations issued a joint statement, announcing that centralized and necessary legal rights protection actions will be launched for unauthorized editing, cutting and dissemination of film and television content on the Internet.

On April 23, more than 70 film and television media units issued a joint proposal including specific suggestions and guidelines. Among the 514 supporters are Li Bingbing, Zhao Liying, Yang Mi, and Wang YiBo. The proposal also gained support from some government departments.

Some people oppose the proposal because they may lose the right to criticize video works with short videos. Others believe that the targets of this proposal are short videos that simply and rudely quote clips from video platforms.

For the purpose of introducing or commenting on a piece of work, quotations do not need to be approved by the copyright owner, but the name of the original author and the name of the work shall be specified. (In fact, the definition of appropriate quotation still lacks the support of authoritative judicial cases.)

So why did the copyright war start?

In 2020, iQiyi, Tencent Video and Ali Entertainment – with Youku Video as the core business – suffered big losses. The main revenue sources of long video platforms are member services and online advertising, but these are often insufficient. In 2020, with the market approaching saturation, iQiyi and Tencent Video raised their membership prices, leading to a drop in the number of subscribers.

In February this year, Douyin and Kuaishou enjoyed 600 million and 300 million monthly active users, while iQiyi, Tencent Video and Youku only had 250 million, 180 million and 80 million respectively.

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Short video platforms launched by those three major platforms, such as Wesee (微视) and Suike (随刻) did not gain much popularity among young users either.

However, the pace at which short video companies are counterattacking long video one is accelerating. Bilibili has become a shareholder of Huanxi Media Group, a film and television company, and bagged the copyrights of Leap and Run For Young. Meanwhile, Douyin Culture (Xiamen) Co., Ltd. produced Soul Snatcher, which launched on Watermelon video.