The United States and China will enter official trade negotiations next week, with outlying political issues strongly influencing discussions on both sides. Internet piracy remains a major problem that the United States wants China to more aggressively enforce, especially as the country strengthens trade agreements with the US and other nations.
More than 4,000 people have been arrested in mainland China and future crackdowns against pirates are now expected. The country now claims as many as 650,000 government agents are busy with at least 2,500 piracy investigations.
China has cracked down on piracy in the past, but the lackluster efforts are shrugged off as mere political ploys on the world stage. For example, a significant anti-piracy effort was launched prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics with the United States and the rest of the western world watching. There have been additional anti-piracy operations to reduce online and physical piracy, but it’s still easy to find pirated material online and on the street.
Physical piracy may always persist in Chinese marketplaces, but the government is more aggressively fighting online piracy.
Chinese companies are increasingly reaching out to copyright holders, with the three largest online video sites removing US content. The Youku, Ku6 and Tudou video sites began purging thousands of uploaded videos in an effort to avoid government sanctions, as they vowed to continue removing videos.
Another effort has been led to legally sell, stream and provide content for prices cheaper than pirated alternatives. Also, Youku has a new free online store featuring ad-supported films alongside pay-per-view movies and other content available to Chinese Internet users.
I find it ironic that the US government is pressuring China on piracy when cyber attacks originating from the country continue to rise. These coordinated attacks pose a major threat to the US infrastructure — and should be more pressing — than intellectual property violations.