Chinese netizens more willing to pay for content online, say experts and industry players

A man uses a computer in an internet cafe in Beijing on June 1, 2017.
A man uses a computer in an internet cafe in Beijing on June 1, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - Chinese netizens are increasingly willing to pay for content online and copyright protection plays a big role in that trend, according to experts.

"The market for paid online content just started in China and shows remarkable growth," said professor Lyu Benfu, who specialises in online economy at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. "Without copyright protection, paying for content would no longer exist, particularly when large scale pirating occurs."

Netizens are increasingly willing to pay for valuable content, reported China Daily.

"Five years ago, it was almost free to listen to music online. Nearly all music websites were free. I had no idea that what I downloaded was pirated copies, which harmed my favourite singers' intellectual property," said magazine editor Zhang Hui in Shanghai.

Ms Zhang has sometimes been upset to find her articles being stolen online, too. But previously, it rarely occurred to her that she was encouraging copyright infringement by never paying to read or listen to music online. "I do now," she said, according to China Daily.

Ms Zhang is not the only one to raise copyright protection awareness in China.

A recent study by iResearch, a Beijing-based consulting firm, showed that nearly half of Chinese netizens are willing to pay or have paid for online content, compared with 30 per cent in 2014.

"Valuable content created by scholars, scientists and artists was published online for free in the past," said deputy director Xiang Songzuo of the International Monetary Institute at Renmin University of China in Beijing.

"But in recent years, more and more people have started to believe they should pay for access to that content. So, many websites have created platforms to collect payment."

Mr Xiang added: "It will be an inevitable trend. Knowledge, especially high-quality knowledge, should command a good price. Authors will pay more attention to their content when it costs money to access.

"It is mutually beneficial. Consumers willingly pay for high-quality content. Authors will be encouraged to create better content."

New technology is helping to prevent digital content infringement online.

"Suizhi uses a new technology involving code and digital copyright technologies to prevent online infringement," said Suizhi.com founder Liu Tongpeng. Suizhi is an e-commerce content website.

"The company has obtained seven patents. Digital content including video, audio and text files can be sold at a certain price. Payment is for one copy."

Suizhi allows authors to upload their works and sell their knowledge at a certain price.

"The new technology helps turn knowledge into money," said Suizhi's founder, as quoted by China Daily.