Booker Zhang is an IPilogue Writer and a 1L JD Candidate at the University of Manitoba.
Imagine you are very interested in a three-hour movie that you do not have the time or patience to finish or a horror movie that you are too scared to watch. If a video condenses the film into short clips summarizing the plot, would you choose to watch the video instead? These movie recap videos have become extremely popular in China. While useful, they raise concerns of potential copyright infringement.
AmoGood, one of China’s most famous and influential movie recap bloggers, is well-known for his video series “Watching a Movie within X Minutes.” His video channel on Bilibili, a popular Chinese video website, has over 2.42 million subscribers and 1400 videos. He has millions of likes on Facebook and YouTube. In 2017, AmoGood was involved in the first Chinese legal action against movie recap producers.
Five companies, including Walt Disney Company, Deltamac Co., Autoai Design Co., KKTV Co., and Garage Play, brought an action against AmoGood. They claimed that his videos infringed by using their movie clips without permission. In response, AmoGood argued that he used the materials for commentary, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, and scholarship, which do not require permission from rights holders. He also argued that his videos should not qualify as infringement as they are non-commercial (free to watch). After a two-year negotiation, AmoGood eventually reached an agreement with the plaintiffs. He released an official apology on his Facebook page in 2020 and compensated the claimed economic loss his videos caused.
Nevertheless, the lawsuit did not seem to deter AmoGood or other video bloggers of the same nature. AmoGood continues to make and post videos regularly. The market for this content has continued to grow, with an increasing number of creators uploading videos to YouTube and various video platforms. A Korean Youtuber 지무비: G Movie began producing movie recaps in 2017 and has 1.84 million subscribers. His most popular video, explaining Gerald’s Game, has over 33 million views. The low cost and huge potential benefit of movie recaps are enticing.
Though national governments are attempting to address copyright risks, the internet goes beyond borders. The Chinese National Radio and Television Administration introduced a regulation in 2018 to prevent illegal capture, cut, stitching, and adapting audio-visual programs. Japanese police arrested three people for posting a 10-minute move recap on June 23, 2021. However, YouTube, the most popular video website worldwide, adopts a “fair use” copyright policy that allows the reuse of copyright-protected material under certain circumstances without permission from the copyright owner. This policy generates difficulties when interfering with domestic intellectual property laws in different regions. It must also be applied on a case-by-case basis, making it impossible for YouTube to identify and eliminate each and every suspicious video.