Wu Yan, a Creative Industries Management MSc student at De Montfort University has conducted her final project, jointly supervised by UK-China Film Collab. Her project touches on an urgent topic about piracy viewing habits among Chinese students in the UK and their impact on the local film industry. Here is a summary of the findings and evaluation from her submitted final project.
Film Piracy in the UK: Duonao’s popularity among the Chinese Student Population
The film industry in the UK forms an integral part of the economy, and therefore the business of piracy is a lucrative one. Piracy is rampant especially among the Chinese students who have been using the online streaming platform, Duonao (now renamed IFVOD) to watch Chinese films. The hardest hit areas for piracy turned to online movies, and the number of pirated films has since increased. Even less popular online movies have become targets of piracy. Most of the time, all the pirated resources of domestic theatres, classic foreign films, popular online dramas, and online movies are on the same platform. This kind of mentality—i.e., do not spend money, do not look at anything, do not watch—seems logical; often they clicked on the posters on pirated websites, rather than specifically to find that particular online movie.
According to statistics, there are more than 200,000 Chinese students studying in the UK. If each Chinese student attends the cinema twice a year, and it costs roughly £8 to watch a film, the total expenditure would be around £3,200,000. When determining the monetary value of a film, the multiplier effect occurs when the same number is read two or even three times. For example, if Wal-Mart sells DVDs for $10, it stays at $7; the film studio received $1; the manufacturer received $2. When calculating the economic impact of the DVD, economists would add up the revenues of the three companies, $7 + $1 + $2, to get $10. If an economist uses the multiplier effect to determine the contribution of DVDs to the economy, he may erroneously assume that film studios will extract all their revenue from DVDs, increasing the income of other companies. Economists say the impact of the $10 DVD is $19. In this case, the value of the DVD is almost twice the actual value and the film studio’s revenue is estimated to be 1000% higher than the actual revenue.
In 2016, piracy and infringement began to tilt toward online film and television, and the main methods were forums, post bars, online disk sharing, aggregated hot linking, and small website infringement. Soon after the website with genuine copyright is updated, pirated resources will flow out, and most of them will be distributed for free en masse. In fact, the destruction of online film and television by piracy is more direct and thorough than piracy’s effect on theatre chains. Compared with the sub-standard pirate recording of theatrical movies, online movies can almost achieve second pirates, this can be captured in half and pirated updates in 3 hours. Once on the platform, there will be pirated websites right away, realising internet pirate synchronisation. Within an hour of the upload there are overwhelming numbers of piracies. Some pirated websites do not even need to download the films, and can be streamed online for free.
I Interviewed a Group of Chinese Students about Duonao and Piracy – Here are My Findings
Most participants of the interviews were aged between 19–28, implying that most of them are either receiving higher education or have just graduated. This younger age group formed 61% of the total number that I interviewed, indicating that most of the piracy done on Duonao belongs to this age group. The other age groups involved participants aged between 11–18 years and 28+. Youth are more prone to succumb to the temptation to illegally upload data on the internet. This conduct is a result of the fact that the moral and economic decisions made by adolescents and adults are influenced by a variety of variables. In society, adolescents and young adults form a group, and they are more prone to download items from the internet. Only 35.3% of individuals over the age of 28 download digital files from illicit sources, according to the findings.
One of the questionnaires sought to realize the magnitude of traffic on Duonao compared to other legal websites including Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Netflix. It was found that many of the participants (38%) watched Duonao, meaning they opted to use illegal streaming platforms for their entertainment.
Concerning the period of time that the participants had used Duonao, it was discovered that the majority had been using the site for around 6 months. 18% had been using it for 1–3 years.
The questionnaire also provided very rich information concerning various issues; one of them being the perception of Duonao copyright infringement and charging fee. One of the participants claimed that the website is very convenient compared to other legal platforms.
On the other hand, a contrary perception was offered by another participant who claimed that the piracy would lead to the collapse of the television and the film industry in the UK due to the unhealthy competition. On matters concerning legal action against those caught watching pirated content in the UK, more participants suggested that they would refrain from this behaviour once they were released from the authorities. Some promised that they would not repeat such behaviours.
The western films uploaded to Duonao, generally, are the ones that are very popular in China. If the UK distributor cannot match the Chinese release time, then a lot of Chinese students will go to Duonao and subsequently the film industry will lose a great portion of its Chinese audience. For a variety of reasons, when a Chinese film is set to be released in the UK, our UK film distributor usually cannot release it at the same time as in China, and there’s always a delay of a week or two, according to Millie from UK film distributor Trinity CineAsia.
On the question concerning what she knew of the reasons why viewers in the UK are encouraged to use pirated content rather than legitimate source, Millie claimed that update speed and the viewing habits were the main reasons. Millie said that because it is expensive to go to the cinema in Britain, cinemas in London are usually more than £10. Therefore, many will fall back on pirated movies, as they simply cannot afford these prices.
On the question regarding how Millie thought the film industry could guide Chinese students studying in the UK to lead the fight against movie piracy, she highlighted that the first point is to create a good environment and call on Chinese students to go to the cinema to see the legal films. How can we expect the film industry to survive when the public are not pumping money back into it? Millie also stressed that; good awareness of copyright protection can give more creators the confidence to create better work. This is mainly an ideological shift. Second, some of the resources on pirate platforms are incomplete, or they change the sound or picture to evade censorship. However, the biggest obstacle to change is the budget, as companies that have the reputation for fighting piracy are expensive.
Duonao Film Reviews – Convenience, Accessibility, and Interactivity
The ease of Duonao film reviews was shown by their real-time nature. This implies that the audience offered their views immediately after viewing the film on the site. Interestingly, film reviews have been included into the systems of many large video websites. This technique of online film evaluations may instil a feeling of interactivity between the film and its viewers. The organizations involved in cinema internet critique are not professional. Their traits contribute to their unequal comprehension of films. In contrast to conventional criticism’s methodical and logical expertise and theorisation, their judgements are harder to make.
The open nature of Duonao reviews was most evident in their popularity and liberalisation. Popularity was a key feature of internet film reviews. In contrast to conventional film reviews, its authors are anonymous: inventing new faces, speaking from the heart, and offering their genuine opinions. The liberalisation of online film reviews was shown by the fact that it enables online cinema reviews to achieve a high degree of independence via the features of publishing, authoring, and concealment of identity.
In comparison to conventional film reviews, the main distinguishing characteristic of Duonao online film reviews was the close relationship between communicator and audience. Historically, the position and roles of conventional cinema critics and readers were well defined, separating the emphasis of film reviewers from the audience’s enjoyment and taste. The movies were mostly positively reviewed, but there were some complaints concerning the specs of a few of the films. This, however, does not alter the reality that conventional media communication has limits. However, the internet’s new media platform, Duonao, has resolved this issue. People can read film reviews on public forums provided by Duonao and can interact with one another by commenting or leaving a message.
Tackling Piracy: The Challenges and the Solutions
The content of the interview is very informative because it provides the reality of piracy in the UK and the challenges that are currently being faced, one being finances. It has been ascertained that the lack of funds makes it difficult for the authorities responsible for tackling piracy to hire competitive companies to lead the campaign of eradicating piracy. As mentioned above, the budgeting provided to the authorities is not sufficient.
Also ascertained from the interviewees was that the general prices for subscriptions to legal streaming platforms is too high, and so they turned to sites like Duonao. The rationale that these pirated movies and website are rampant is because many Chinese students do not want to spend the money for a subscription even if they have the funds. This is mindset is reinforced by the simple ease of access to sites like Duonao. Therefore, this makes it challenging to capture the owners of pirated website because they have enough financial sources to run multiple websites to show the pirated website. However, Millie suggested various ways that pirated website can be defeated such as through the creation of awareness, and to alert them that their behaviour is illegal and is damaging the economy.
The British Film Council has launched a search engine, FindAnyFilm.com, so that film lovers can find where and how to buy/rent/stream more than 30,000 films. With government funds, the British Film Council hopes that search engines like this will provide a legal alternative to pirated movies. The film industry insists that downloading pirated movies is illegal, but often does not provide a good alternative. According to British Film Council spokesperson Rachel Grant, it is great method for those who want to find legal ways of obtaining movies. Online availability is limited. According to statistics from the British Film Council, currently, 9.3% of titles are available for download, only 2.4% can be streamed, and only 2.4% on DVD or Blu-ray. When a user enters a title in FindAnyFilm.com, it will return all the formats available for the movie, broken down by proximity, price, and popularity. Users can go directly to the website of a movie theatre or retailer, where they can reserve seats at the nearest movie theatre, or even use the cheapest or preferred retailer to buy movies. The website has a notification function to let users know as soon as possible that the movie they choose, no matter how vague, can be provided in the format of their choice. But this feature will also be used by the council to remind distributors of films, for example, consumers want to be able to download one of their movies, Grant said.
Among the Chinese students in the UK, it is conceived that Duonao is one of the most popular websites used for accessing pirated Chinese films. The two main factors that keep piracy alive are anonymity (which is a simple answer to the question) and technicality. One will notice that popular websites such as Duonao and The Pirate Bay are almost always located in countries with loose copyright laws. Most countries require one to file a lawsuit in the country where the infringement actually occurred. Because the country’s laws are relatively relax, these sites often argue that they do not actually host any content and therefore get nothing. This leads to my next point: the Duonao prototype call. To date, Duonao is the most popular method of providing pirated material because it is safe, fast, cheap, and not easily disturbed. When one downloads certain content through Duonao, the content will not be provided from a central server. Instead, everyone who connects exchanges files with each other. Therefore, many Chinese students download the torrent at the same time without negatively affecting its speed. And since it is not on any server, it is almost impossible to be interfered with by the authorities.
Age is one of the many factors for digital piracy, since this problem affects not only children and adolescents, but also the elderly. However, in comparison to other groups, the magnitude of this hazardous conduct will raise worry at a certain age. Additionally, young Chinese students utilise new technology differently than their parents do. Teenagers and young adults, especially young Chinese students, who spend long hours on the internet each day, primarily utilise digital media for communication, self-expression, and access to multimedia and amusement. In this case, only 3.9% were found engaging in piracy activities which means that majority of them either are employing legal means to enjoy Chinese movies, or simply do not condone piracy. Digital piracy also poses a threat to the information on society’s long-term growth.
To build real digital skills, it is necessary to first comprehend how young Chinese students interpret the issue of piracy. The next stage, based on the data gathered, is to expand the formal education program to include the moral, legal, and societal elements of piracy. The educational component of piracy has the potential to not only improve digital skills, but also to safeguard children and their legal guardians from civil, criminal, and financial liability. This is a critical component of young Chinese students’ knowledge of how to utilise ICT. Intellectual property education continues to be a problem for media pedagogy and associated fields. This is a multidisciplinary problem including a wide body of knowledge that cuts beyond the borders of media education, law, sociology, and ethics.
Piracy of digital content has grown widespread. This is true even for nations with a high GDP that depend significantly on the creation of computer applications and audio-visual materials. Although producers and distributors of digital goods now enjoy legal protection, piracy is prevalent in many nations worldwide. The degree to which digital piracy occurs is determined by a variety of variables, including the sophisticated IT infrastructure utilised to build a repository of software, film, and film. Additionally, factors that exacerbate such risky behaviour on the internet include a lack of awareness for the insignificant social consequences of using storage services and a lack of awareness and skills for determining the legitimacy of certain other sources. Inadequate content (this is primarily applicable to network services that provide legal access to content); the value of products provided by legitimate sources is disproportionate to the value of services provided by inexpensive downloads; and the sense of impunity felt by users who download and share. The proliferation of informal content is also linked to the breadth and sophistication of resources and software accessible through the internet, as well as the fact that these materials are increasingly contemporary.
Final Thoughts: Broadband growth in Britain and the Challenges for the Future
Other countries generally regard the UK as a model for effective enforcement of bans on pirated websites. However, in the past few years, film and film companies have not requested any new blocking measures. Therefore, new pirated websites are now active again. There is no doubt that website blocking is one of the most popular anti-piracy tools in the entertainment industry. The UK has always been a leader in website blocking measures.
Intellectual property is at the core of the economic and political problems caused by piracy because it affects investment growth and cultural diversity. In order to maintain cultural activity, the United Kingdom and the European Union must protect and compensate for the unique contributions of their creators and investors. Failure to do so will jeopardise the ability of artists and companies to provide their works and catalogues. The lack of damages in tort litigation is an obvious weakness in the English legal system. This is a punitive remedy sought and/or granted when the defendant’s deliberate actions were malicious, aggressive, oppressive, deceptive, undesirable, or grossly irresponsible.
The broadband market in the UK has been growing at an exponential rate in the last two decades. According to Screen Digest data, by the end of 2003, the UK had more than 3 million internet households, and by 2008 it was up to 12 million. A decade ago, there were more internet using households in Britain than anywhere else in Europe. In other words, broadband internet has brought a new challenge to us: internet piracy. One of the arguments raised by sceptics is that compared to music files, feature film files are too large to download efficiently. Therefore, they believe that this is not only an aesthetic, but also a technical hinderance. It is also believed that although most music customers want to listen to the same material on repeat, moviegoers will only watch the movie once or twice, and so there is less incentive to download it. As technology advances, this argument becomes less compelling.
This article has been proofread and edited by Alexei Hampson, Chief Editor for Film Dialectics.
This MSc final project report was supervised by Dr Hiu Man Chan, Lecturer in Creative & Cultural Industries at De Montfort University as well as Founder & Director of UK-China Film Collab.