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China's World Media Summit

The World Media Summitis underway in Beijing, where media companies from around the world are tackling how to protect their intellectual property and enter what promises to be a massive new market in China. The bottom line: media moguls from the West want to ensure that they generate revenue from digital distribution of their content, a message that seems particularly pointed against the backdrop of China, which is known for its rampant piracy.

President Hu Jintao said in a speech to the conference that Beijing would protect the rights of international news organizations reporting in China. Hu Jintao said that foreign coverage has had an "important role" in informing the world about changes in his country and promoting peace. The last comment is a bit odd considering that the communist government still restricts coverage of human rights and other controversial topics. He told the representatives of more than 170 media outlets: "we will continue to make government affairs public, enhance information distribution, safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of foreign news organizations and reporters and facilitate foreign media coverage of China in accordance with China's laws and regulations." (I suppose that raises the question of whether China's laws about transparency do cover topics like human rights.)

Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp (NWS) kicked off the media summit with an exhortation for the Chinese government to protect intellectual property and enable media competition. (China is notoriously the most difficult market for everyone from the movie studios to the TV networks to distribute content; the government maintains tight limits on just how much foreign content can be released. Even partnering with government owned companies to access the local market could be a nightmare.) Murdoch pressed an issue he's been championing of late, actually CHARGING for content instead of relying on advertising revenue. He's planning to roll out subscription models across the company's news businesses, building on the success of The Wall Street Journal's subscription business.

Here's a powerful quote from Murdoch's speech, banging the charge-for-content drum, and laying down the law for aggregators like Google : "The aggregators and the plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content. If we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid-for content, it will be the content creators, the people in this hall, who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs will triumph." "Content kleptomaniacs" - quite the catchy phrase.

  • Read Murdoch's Speech at the World Media Summit World Media

The CEO of the Associated Press, Tom Curley, also weighed in, accusing sites like Wikipedia, YouTube and Facebook of them of diverting revenue from content creators rather than curating content and driving traffic. This was a issue that the AP had previously had with Google News. The Associated Press now licenses stories and photos to heavily-trafficked sites like Google, Yahoo and MSN , but Curley is right that those links, headlines and news summaries are often posted elsewhere, where the company may not ever see a penny of revenue. That's precisely why the AP is planning to roll out a system (calling it a "news registry") to track its online content and monazite unlicensed uses. The AP, which is a non-profit co-op estimates that unauthorized use of material costs tens of millions of dollars. That's one reason its revenue is projected to be about $700 million this year, down nearly $50 million from last year. Another factor driving down revenue is the association's reduction in fees, thanks to its member companies lower ad revenue.

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