China's Giant Online Video Sites Youku and Tudou Exchange Piracy Accusations

In Media and Legal Battle, Both Sides Claim Theft of Popular Shows Like 'Kangxi is Coming' and 'Hip-Hop Office Quartet'

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China is notorious for pirated content, so a colorful legal and media battle being waged by the country's two giant online video sites, Youku and Tudou, is drawing widespread attention. Each company alleges that the other is running pirated videos and is guilty of massive intellectual property infringement. The two businesses compete fiercely for viewers in China, the world's largest internet market by number of users.

Pre-roll ad in allegedly pirated content on Youku.
Pre-roll ad in allegedly pirated content on Youku.

Tudou claims that Youku has been pirating all the episodes of the popular entertainment series "Kangxi is Coming" since Dec. 1, despite being served by Tudou with a barrage of official notices of infringement in letters, faxes and phone calls. In an English-language press release issued Friday, Tudou found it particularly annoying that Youku is using the allegedly pirated material "to support pre- and post-roll advertisements for automobiles such as Suzuki, foods such as M&Ms. and cosmetics."

Tudou said that though it is the "legal copyright holder" of "Kangxi is Coming," the show is the No. 1 variety program on "and has commanded over 240 million views." On Friday, Tudou announced that it would take legal action to protect the show from illegal uploads to websites such as

Youku one-upped Tudou on Friday by filing its own copyright infringement lawsuit against Tudou. The suit includes a list of "notarized evidence" that Youku has been compiling since last year on 60 shows pirated by Tudou, such as "The Emperor's Harem," "Hip-Hop Office Quartet" and "Miss Puff."

Youku also noted in its statement that meetings between both companies' legal counselors "ultimately proved futile. Since Tudou has repeatedly failed to remove the mountain of stolen intellectual property posted on their site while attempting to smear Youku in the press, Youku now has no choice but to pursue legal action."

Tudou's rebuttal on Friday: "The lawsuit against Tudou is Youku's trick to distract media's attention." In a statement, Tudou said that "it's been proved that Youku's accusations are fabricated" and that "the content has already been promptly removed by Tudou as soon as it's been notified."

On Friday, Youku spokeswoman Jean Shao told Ad Age : "[Tudou] claimed 150 million RMB compensation from us [about $23.5 million]. If we adopt their math, then they owe us 50 billion RMB [$7.9 billion] for copyright infringement."

Stay tuned.

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