Alibaba Group News: Taobao, Film Studios Agree to Fight Pirated Content

Six major international film studios and Taobao Marketplace have agreed to work together to stop the sale and distribution of pirated movies, TV shows and other audiovisual content on China's largest online shopping platform.

The overall goal of a memorandum of understanding signed by Taobao and the film studios' representative, the U.S.-based Motion Picture Association (MPA), is "to promote a healthier online environment in China for the sale and distribution of legitimate audiovisual content," according to a statement released today.

Both parties "have reached a common understanding regarding the importance of strengthening existing standards, mechanisms, and mutual responsibilities concerning the identification and removal of copies of MPA member company content from Taobao.com’s consumer-targeted e-commerce platform that the members have identified as counterfeit or otherwise infringing," the joint statement said.

Taobao, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, runs a vast online marketplace with more than 500 million registered users. Although the website has been flagged by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) as a "notorious market" for counterfeit goods sales, Taobao has in recent years stepped up efforts to monitor online storefronts for fakes and eject sellers of pirated products and content.

In a document submitted to the USTR earlier this year, Taobao noted it has put in place "broad-based reforms and severe penalties to prevent the sale of infringing goods over its platforms." In the first six months of 2012 alone, Taobao says it removed more than 47 million listings for counterfeit products at the request of brand owners and through monitoring of the website.

Mike Ellis, the MPA's Asia Pacific president and managing director, hailed the agreement with Taobao as "a very significant step in promoting the legitimate sale and distribution of audiovisual content on the Internet. We are very confident of seeing positive and immediate results arising from this initiative."

The agreement includes a provision that Taobao.com shops selling content such as CDs and DVDs be required to hold a valid publication license issued by the Chinese government.

Taobao also agreed to adopt "more transparent criteria to address recalcitrant sellers of goods copyright owners have identified as infringing," according to the statement. The website also said it would work with the MPA to efficiently and effectively identify and remove products that infringe on the intellectual property of MPA members, as well as with law enforcement to pursue serial offenders.

"The Taobao companies are committed to setting an example regarding respect for intellectual property, and this MOU demonstrates that continuing commitment," said John Spelich, vice president of Alibaba Group, in the statement. "Our takedown system is designed to help intellectual property rights owners protect their rights in accordance with relevant laws and is consistent with systems of other leading e-commerce platforms around the world, but we welcome the consultation with MPA as a way of sharpening the focus and operational approach of that commitment."

Headquartered in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., the MPA is an industry trade group that protects the intellectual property rights of its members in global markets. MPA members are Paramount Pictures; Sony Pictures Entertainment; Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.; Universal City Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; and Warner Bros. Entertainment.