Chinese Internet video firms tussle over copyright

SHANGHAI Fri Dec 16, 2011 4:30am EST

A pedestrian walks past the company logo of Tudou located at their headquarters in Shanghai August 17, 2011. REUTERS/Aly Song

A pedestrian walks past the company logo of Tudou located at their headquarters in Shanghai August 17, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's top online video firm, Youku.com, said on Friday it has initiated legal proceedings against rival Tudou Holdings for allegedly infringing on the copyright of its videos.

Tudou also said late on Thursday that it would take legal action against Youku for allegedly reposting episodes of a popular variety program on Youku's platform.

Cti TV, the legal copyright holder of "Kangxi is Coming," signed an exclusive agreement with Tudou in November to distribute the episodes of the program on its platform, Tudou said in an emailed statement.

Tudou and Cti TV allege that the episodes were then copied by Youku and uploaded onto Youku's platform.

Youku subsequently countered on Friday that Tudou had allegedly pirated more than 60 television serials from Youku and that the firm had initiated court proceedings against Tudou in Shanghai.

Youku said in a statement that legal mediation between the two sides had failed.

The battle for content in China's online video space has heated up this year with costs for programs rising significantly as online video players scramble for eyeballs to lure advertisers.

Advertising revenue in the domestic online video market, which was virtually non-existent five years ago, is now estimated to be worth 1 billion yuan ($156.90 million). This is expected to grow at a double-digit rate.

Many online video players have also signed deals with Hollywood studios to boost viewership.

Shares of Tudou closed 2.51 percent lower on the Nasdaq on Thursday, while Youku fell 3.75 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.

($1 = 6.3735 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Matt Driskill)

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