Singapore/Beijing – On April 11, as part of U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke’s Roundtable on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Protection, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) together with major Chinese online video sites Youku, Sohu, iQiyi, and LeTV unveiled a “Thank You” video featuring nearly 100 of China’s leading actors and filmmakers.

Heeding a call from the MPA, China’s film community turned out in droves to deliver personal messages of thanks to the sites’ hundreds of millions of users and a call for support of legitimate online screen content – with the full backing of China’s burgeoning online video industry.

The launch was attended by dignitaries including Ambassador Locke, European Union (EU) Ambassador to China, Markus Ederer, South Korean Ambassador, Lee Kyu-Hyung, and United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) Deputy Director, Teresa Rea. They were joined by Chinese government officials, industry executives and celebrities.

“Congratulations to everyone involved in this initiative. After many years of outreach to promote the protection of content online, we are now witnessing an increasingly promising online video business environment in China,” said Mike Ellis, President and Managing Director of MPA Asia Pacific. “Promoting and protecting the creative community in China is also about building businesses and supporting opportunities for growth so that creators can focus on developing ideas and products that meet consumer demand. It is indeed extremely encouraging to see the Chinese film community directly engaging fellow citizens in the online community to do the right thing.”

“The fight against online video piracy has come a long way. We are thankful to MPA for playing a constructive role in bringing the content industry and new media companies together,” said Charles Zhang, Chairman and founder of Sohu.com. “Copyright protection offers a win-win for all. But ultimately, consumers benefit the most from a piracy-free environment that enables online video distributors like Sohu to provide the best quality content and service to meet their needs.”

This year the MPA joined industry advocacy group United States Information Technology Organization (USITO) to organize the IPR Roundtable. The event drew more than 200 government officials and industry representatives to raise awareness and support for IPR in the digital age. In his opening remarks, Ambassador Locke urged the government and industry to join forces to create an IPR environment that allows businesses to thrive.

“It is essential we protect the intellectual property of the film industry (and all industries’ intellectual property rights) because without protection for the underlying intellectual property, the best artistic and other achievements that society produces would never come to realization. Failure to protect these industries’ intellectual property will have serious negative consequences for the U.S. economy and other economies, such as China’s, that are working to enhance their cultural production. That is why I chose to focus this year’s IPR Roundtable on “online issues and new challenges” because this not simply an American issue – protecting intellectual property is a shared concern for all those economies which wish to benefit from the strength of their intellectual resources, which are increasingly dependent on the Internet or online media for communication and transmission,” said Ambassador Locke.

The IPR Roundtable was an initiative first organized in 2002 by the U.S. Embassy in China as a platform for dialogue between the Chinese government and international rights owners to address rampant IP infringement in China.

Now in its 10th year, the roundtable has since evolved to emphasize raising public awareness of legitimate business models and garnering government support for IP development in China. This year’s event will include keynote speeches from Ambassador Gary Locke, Vice Minister of Commerce Chong Quan, Commissioner Tian Lipu of the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), Vice Minister Yan Xiaohong of the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC), and U.S. Patent Trademark Office Deputy Director Teresa Rea, along with industry representatives including Charles Zhang, Chairman and founder of Sohu.com.

The growing popularity of the Internet – globally and within China – presents some of the entertainment industry’s biggest opportunities and challenges. At 513 million, there are more Internet users in China than the entire population of the United States, according to official data released by the China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC) in late 2011. These users represent 38.3% of China’s entire population of 1.3 billion. An Internet penetration rate on par with the United States (about 75%) would see the number of China Internet users soar to just below a billion users.