At the 9th annual China Internet Audio & Video Convention (CIAVC), which took place in Chengdu on June 3, mainstream video platform officials voiced criticism of short videos and so-called “we-media” platforms.
Since its debut in 2013, the conference welcomed guests and representatives from the online audio and video industry each year for presentations and discussions. With the slogan of “Pushing for a New Development Stage of Audio and Video,” this year’s event had its eye on the surge in market value of short videos and livestreams, and invited guests from across the we-media industry, in addition to traditional audio and video streaming platforms.
Despite recognizing its popularity, representatives from mainstream video platforms did not hold back from expressing concerns regarding the industry’s potential negative influence on copyright protection and consumer behavior.
Gong Yu, founder and CEO of iQiyi, held that the so-called “derivative work” prevalent on we-media platforms should be regarded as a form of copyright infringement. He believed that creators of such content combined unlicensed and original content, generating re-created products bordering on piracy. Gong alleged that such “soft piracy” made its way most easily into the short video market, where large volumes of illegal content could be broken up to get around review and censorship.
CEO of Youku and Alibaba Pictures Fan Luyuan echoed Gong’s opinion and asserted that the society should “treat copyright infringement as severely as drunk driving”. Fan directed his remark to popular video-sharing site Bilibili and expressed hopes that the platform would “consider original content as its primary goal”.
More controversial comments came from Sun Zhonghuai, Vice President of Tencent Video. In response to the discussion of copyright protection, Sun highlighted that “ten years ago, Youku…(and other) first-generation long video streaming websites had very severe copyright infringement issues,” and that the problem was only eventually mitigated after long periods of contention and regulation efforts.
Pointing to the immediacy and superficiality of short videos, Sun condemned that despite the success of short video platforms, they are still inundated with “low-intellect, low-quality” content that could harm users’ mental well-being in the long run.
“A lot of people at train stations, airports and subway stations play these brain-washing short videos out loud like idiots… [Such content] could quickly bring down the taste and aesthetics of an entire generation,” said Sun. He said he believes that the platforms’ heavily individualized content distribution mechanisms contributed to this destructive potential, quipping that “if you like pig feed, all you see is pig feed”.
Sun also added that such characteristics pose a serious threat to minors, whose mental health development depends greatly on their information intake.
To this, Vice President of Bytedance Li Liang responded earlier this morning. “Perhaps this [Tencent] official is not aware that the the only short video platform that has not implemented a ‘minor protection mode’ as required is the ‘Channels’ function of WeChat, which the company claims to have hundreds of millions of users,” Li pointed out in an article. He also maintained that Tencent kept attacking the industry while the company had been pouring efforts into the expansion of its own short video operations.
According to a research report released at the convention, users in China’s internet audio and video industry have amounted to 944 million as of December last year. The number of short video platform users has reached 873 million, making up 88.3 percent of all internet users. With a total value of over 1 trillion yuan ($157 billion), the network copyright industry now represents one of the most lucrative and quickly growing markets in the country.