Legal Risks and Solutions to Video-Sharing Web Sites—Focusing on Copyright Infringement

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015
Yimeei Guo (ed.)Research on Selected China’s Legal Issues of E-Business10.1007/978-3-662-44542-6_18

18. Legal Risks and Solutions to Video-Sharing Web Sites—Focusing on Copyright Infringement

Yimeei Guo , Zhou Yu  and Junjie Ji 

Law Department, Center for Economic Law, Xiamen University, Xiamen, 361005, China



Yimeei Guo (Corresponding author)


Zhou Yu


Junjie Ji


In recent years, video-sharing Web sites have a rapid development as a new product, but they are shadowed by the problems of law violations and endless litigations. The major problems which video-sharing Web sites encountered are infringement of copyright and privacy and contravention of foreign countries’ national dignity and religion. Although the “Safe Harbor” doctrine is the amulet to protect the video-sharing Web sites from copyright-infringement liability, yet there are also some unavoidable legal risks against video-sharing Web sites for some of their broadcasting videos insulted foreign countries’ dignity and religion. This article analyzes the legal risks mentioned above and referring to the “Safe Harbor” doctrine in particular to exonerate the copyright-infringement liability of video-sharing Web sites. Finally, this article gives some advices in view of the healthy and sound development of video-sharing Web sites.

Video-sharing web sitesLegal risks“Safe harbor” doctrine

(Published by “Proceedings of the IASTED International Conference on Modeling, Simulation, and Identification (MSI 2009)”, October 1, 2009<EI indexed>)

18.1 Introduction

18.1.1 General Situation of Video-sharing Web sites

As the Internet continues to develop in recent years, various new online entertainment service modes have been created, bringing people much more pleasure than ever. Among them, there are many foreign and domestic popular video-sharing Web sites, which are based on the traditional host–client model; however, they do not provide videos themselves, but provide the netizens with cyberspace. By nature, the videosharing Web sites are the ones with the Web 2.0 (i.e., the second-generation technology) concept. After registering in such Web sites, the netizens can upload any video that they want to share with the others from the Web sites. As long as the size and length of the video uploaded is in line with the Web sites’ requirement, any netizens who browse the Web sites can watch these videos for free without registration.

So far, the most famous video-sharing Web site in the world has been YouTube, an American Web site founded in February 2005. Inspired by YouTube’s rapid development and successful venture capital’s attraction to Google, many YouTube’s simulative Chinese video-sharing Web sites emerged starting from 2006, including some well-known ones, e.g.,,, and, etc. In the very beginning, netizens usually upload the videos screened by them, but today, nearly all kinds of the videos, including movies, TV plays, sport games, and news could be found in the video-sharing Web sites, and the Web sites are just like Web TVs that can broadcast any programs as the netizens wish any time. As a notable performance, claims more than 100 million daily unique video views and more than 60 million visitors a month.1 The video-sharing Web sites are free for all the netizens, so that neither the netizens uploading their videos nor the netizens watching the videos should pay for it. The main source—even the only source of income of the video-sharing Web sites—is advertising, and as the Web sites attract more and more attention from the netizens, the advertising income of the Web sites also increases.

18.1.2 Introduction of Major Video-Sharing Web Sites Home and Abroad YouTube

YouTube, founded by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim in February 2005, is an American video-sharing site. At the very beginning, it was used to share video clips among friends, but then it developed and became a space for the netizens to publish their video works. Until 2006, YouTube had had 40 million videos and were visited by 6 million people every day. Fifteen months after it was founded, it had become the Web site visited by most people in the twenty-first century, exceeding its opponents MSN Video and Google Video. In October 2006, YouTube was purchased by Google at the cost of $1.65 billion dollars. YouTube had tried to develop in the world since 2007, and it had set up Web sites in many countries including Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and so on. According to the statistics from ComScore Corporation, in January 2009, there were more than 100 million Americans who visited YouTube, and the amount of videos watched came to 6.3 billion. Undoubtedly, YouTube is the most influential videos sharing Web sites in the world nowadays., founded by former chairman and CEO of Gu Yongqiang, is the most famous video-sharing site in China. This site, taking “the world is watching” as its logo, started its public beta in June 2006 and began to operate formally in December 2006. Until December 2007, the first anniversary of the site, the times of its videos played every day had surpass 100 million, ranking first in the industry. In April 2009, Gu Yongqiang told the journalist of China Security News that in the first quarter of 2009, the average monthly income of was more than 10 million. is still the largest and most influential video-sharing site in China. is one of the earliest video-sharing Web sites in China, and it started its public beta as early as April 2005. This site provides with the users unlimited size of personal storage space and independent personal homepage in order to make it easy for the users to upload the videos, besides, it also offer iTudou, a downloading tool to the users, so that they can download the videos in the site easily.

18.2 Major Legal Risks of Video-Sharing Web Sites

For most of the videos in the video-sharing Web sites are uploaded by the netizens, and it is very difficult for the Web sites to do a prior review, some of the videos may violate other people’s rights, then the Web sites are often indicted by the right owners. Currently, the major legal risks for the video-sharing Web sites are copyright and privacy infringement, besides, sometimes the Web sites may be blocked by foreign national authorities for some of their broadcasting videos insulted their dignity or religion.

18.2.1 Copyright Infringement

It is the most common problem for video-sharing Web sites, such as YouTube,, and, have been frequently accused by copyright owners. In those cases, the most eye-catching one is Viacom v. YouTube.2 Viacom is a media giant in the USA, and Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS),, and Paramount Pictures all belong to it. In March 2007, Viacom indicted YouTube and its parent company Google, claiming that more than 160,000 unauthorized video clips were uploaded to YouTube and they had been watched for 1.5 billion times, but YouTube’s strategy was to take no proactive measures to reduce the copyright violations, and their commercial mode was completely based on attracting the netizens through unauthorized videos.

After Viacom v. YouTube

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