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Big Content split on China's IP crackdown

BSA and MPAA clash over Taobao as 'Notorious Market'

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The movie and software lobbyists don’t seem to be able to agree on whether to drop China’s biggest e-commerce marketplace site Taobao from the US government's list of "Notorious Markets" in which pirates and counterfeiters operate with impunity.

Taobao, often referred to as the eBay of China, allows individuals and small businesses to sell their wares through virtual storefronts. The site has a reported 500 million registered users but has struggled to make it off the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) list of ‘Notorious Markets’. The USTR had this to say about the site when it released its latest update in December 2011:

Several commenters reported that pirated and counterfeit goods continue to be widely available on China-based Taobao. While stakeholders report that Taobao continues to make significant efforts to address the problem, they recognise that much remains to be done.

There could be light at the end of the tunnel, however, after Taobao recently struck a deal with Motion Picture Association (MPA) designed to cut the number of copyright infringing goods sold on the site.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will include measures such as removing any infringing products from the listings and working with police to pursue persistent offenders.

Unsurprisingly, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) – the US arm of the MPA – is now getting behind Taobao.

"We are optimistic that Taobao will continue to take the steps necessary to make real and permanent reductions in the availability of counterfeit goods on their e-commerce platform," the group said to the USTR recently, according to Reuters.

The Recording Industry Association of America and the International Intellectual Property Alliance have apparently also got on board, by failing to nominate the Chinese site for the USTR’s next blacklist.

However, anti-software piracy group the Business Software Alliance is proving to be a harder sell, claiming that “unauthorised software and keys remain extremely popular and ubiquitous on the web site", according to the report.

Alibaba Group, the e-commerce giant which owns Taobao and in which Yahoo still has a significant chunk of money invested, will be hoping the site can follow Baidu, which was dropped from the list by USTR last December.

As to why it’s important for a Chinese e-commerce site to be dropped from a US government black list – aside from potentially influencing foreign investment, there are plans afoot in Congress for laws which could end up with such sites being forcibly blocked in the USA, according to Bloomberg.

Alibaba Group and BSA couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. ®

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