Tuesday, 2024 May 28

Tencent wins copyright infringement case against Douyin

A court case where Tencent sued Douyin for copyright infringement has reached a verdict. Douyin was sued by Tencent for violating copyright law when it circulated clips of Honor of Kings, one of Tencent’s most popular game titles, on livestreams. Douyin was ordered to pay a RMB 600,000 (USD 92,600) fine, but will file an appeal.

During the trial, Tencent presented evidence that Douyin “allowed and helped” its users to incorporate short videos involving gameplay from Honor of Kings to attract viewers. Douyin refused to delete the videos after receiving a notification letter from Tencent, so it is liable for copyright infringement, Tencent claimed.

Honor of Kings is a highly popular online video game developed by Tencent. As the top-grossing mobile game worldwide for several months this year, Honor of Kings raked in USD 264.5 million in May for the company, according to data compiled by Sensor Tower.

Tencent also accused Douyin of taking advantage of Honor of Kings’ popularity for its own commercial gain, eroding Tencent’s market share in livestreams of the game in what the company characterized as unfair competition. But the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court, which heard the case, stated that there is a competitive relationship between the two parties, so the accusation of unfair competition cannot be established.

The verdict was for Douyin’s parent company, ByteDance, to compensate Tencent for RMB 500,000 in economic losses plus RMB 100,000 in other expenses. This is a separate payment from the RMB 8 million (USD 1.2 million) in damages paid by ByteDance for livestreaming Honor of Kings gameplay on Huoshan, a platform managed by Douyin.

Matters related to copyright and intellectual property are under the spotlight in China, particularly in the context of the short video format. This week, state broadcaster CCTV said that videos of Olympic events that are hosted on video sites violate copyright law.

Mainstream streaming platforms operated by Tencent and iQiyi claim that videos that are edited by users and reposted to short video platforms like Douyin and Kuaishou infringe upon their copyright.

Douyin maintains that people who generate gameplay videos in Honor of Kings are part of the creation process and hold part of the copyright of the end product. The company also believes this counts as “fair use” of visual content and can thus be hosted by platforms that are not part of Tencent’s ecosystem.

In response to the court’s decision, Douyin issued a statement on its official account on Toutiao on Monday, saying that it has filed an appeal against the ruling.

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Jiaxing Li
Jiaxing Li
Report on China’s turbulent tech scene with deep context and analysis: cover tech policies and regulations; write about major internet firms like Alibaba and Tencent, and a range of tech-driven sectors from the chip, edtech, EV, to metaverse and gaming industry.

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