Chinese P2P Streaming Platform PPLive Sued for Copyright Infringement

The popular Chinese P2P TV platform PPLive has been sued for copyright infringement by entertainment company Beijing Shidai Yingyin International Entertainment Co., reports, seeking compensation of 330,000 Chinese yuan ($47,000). This is the first time PPLive has been sued, but it’s part of a larger backlash against Chinese P2P platforms.

PPLive is hugely popular in China. The service reportedly had 85 million users in October, and it currently offers access to several hundred streaming video channels as well as hundreds of on-demand shows. Most of those are Chinese programming, but PPLive also broadcasts sports events from around the world, including NBA and European soccer games — a feature that has made the service popular with sports fans overseas as well.

PPLive also relays music video stations like MTV Asia and feature-length movies. But recently there have been reports that PPLive has started to at least partially block content, with users complaining that they aren’t able to access western movies from outside of China. A spokesperson for PPLive owner Juli Media told ChinaTechNews that the company spent 60 million Chinese yuan on technologies to protect copyrights last year alone.

That number seems high, but there’s undoubtedly a lot of money to be made with Chinese P2P TV, as the rise of PPLive shows. The P2P streaming platform started as a university project in late 2004. By late 2006, it claimed to attract 2.5 million unique daily visitors, resulting in 18 million daily page views.

Those numbers have gotten the attention of U.S.-based VC firms. PPLive raised $21 million from Draper Fisher Jurvetson in September in a third round of financing after having previously secured around $6 million from other U.S. and Chinese investors.

PPLive isn’t the only Chinese P2P streaming platform getting big bucks: PPStream raised $10 million in March of 2007 and UUSee raised $20 million from well-known VC firms like DFJ, Highland Capital and Steamboat Ventures after previously having raised $10 million from Sequinoa and others.

Now it looks like trouble is looming for Chinese P2P companies. PPStream was sued earlier this year, and the Google-backed download platform Xunlei even got in trouble with the MPAA, which is looking to get $1 million dollars in damages by way of the Chinese courts. So far, the effect of these lawsuits on Chinese-based P2P TV is unclear, but we might know more soon: ChinaTechNews is reporting that a court decision in the PPLive case is expected as soon as next month.