Think YouTube has it tough? Sure, Viacom is suing it for $1 billion, but at least it doesn’t have the US government breathing down its neck. Not so for video sites in China, which have been scrambling to appease their government since late last year.
That means getting a licence to run the site, which most of the big players have now done. Tudou, which is the biggest and oldest Chinese YouTube, doesn’t have one yet, but plans to get one, marketing VP Anita Huang tells us. And that means spending lots of time and money creating what Google doesn’t have a — a system for reviewing all of the videos users upload.
The problem: China’s licence requiresments mean that all uploaded video, and all archived video, has to be reviewed, by hand, for banned content. That includes anything deemed vulgar or sensitive by the Chinese government, including video of protests in Tibet or Taiwan. Also banned: any violation of government or national trademarks, such as the Olympics. Commercial trademarks, however, aren’t the Chinese government’s concern.
For Tudou, this has meant hiring a staff of 100 to review the more than 12 million videos in Tudou’s library, in addition to the 50,000 to 60,000 new videos uploaded each day. Due to the backlog of videos, it takes at least 24 hours for an uploaded video to appear on the site. rumours abound of rivals trying to monkeywrench each other by uploading banned video to each others’ sites.
Tudou is behind two of its competitors, YouKu and Ku6.com, which have received licenses. Another, 56.com shut down for more than a month during licensing process, but Anita tells us that won’t happen to her site. She says the holdup has to do with the vast size of Tudou’s library; the more video to review, the longer it takes. “We have to fullfill the criteria for how the authorities want our content to be filtered,” she said.
They’d better hurry up: Tudou’s investors, IDG Technology Venture Investment, Granite Global Ventures and General Catalyst Partners, have poured more than $85 million into the company, and working without a licence has got to be an uncomfortable limbo.
It’s a contrast to the US, where only one major video site, Metacafe, manually reviews each video uploaded, using a network of volunteers. But that’s a business decision, not a legal one. Each new video is submitted to 300 reviewers chosen from a pool at random who decide if the video has appeal and should get prominent placement. At least 50 have to deem the video appropriate for it to appear on the site.
The story, obviously, is different in China. But Chinese government policy on video sharing actually represents a liberalization from TV and radio, where all content must make it past censors to go on the air. At least for Web video, it’s upload first, review later.
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