They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And, with Hulu yet to launch services outside its home market of the U.S., it’s no surprise, perhaps, that there are some sites bearing an uncanny resemblance to Hulu launching in other markets.
The latest is ivi.ru, a Russian portal that launched at the end of February with 9,000 hours of video content including films and television series, all ad-supported and free to view. Oleg Tumanov, the head of owners Digital Access Holding, even says the site was intentionally created as an “analogue” of Hulu, according to Vedomosti. (via Ria Novosti).
Digital Access is a music portal that used to be owned by Warner Music and Sony (NYSE: SNE) Music, among others, which was sold to ru-net II, a division of the investment firm ru-net Holdings, in February 2009. Digital Access also sells the ads on the site.
The site also streams content from the Russian broadcasts of networks like TNT and MTV. Vedomosti notes that 100 content owners have signed up to the service so far.
Looking at the similarities between Hulu and ivi.ru, it’s surprising to think there haven’t been more companies litigating to protect their web site designs as extensions of their own brands, particularly those companies that ultimately have international ambitions.
Russia has track record…
– The main page for the search engine Yandex, of which ru-net is also a shareholder, owes a lot to Google’s minimalist approach.
– Rutube, on the other hand, doesn’t look like YouTube, but certainly rhymes with it. (The site, owned by the media division of the energy giant Gazprom, is also a video uploading portal).
Maybe it’s hard to win copy-cat cases across international boundaries. Facebook lost a case against StudiVZ in Germany last year, in which it claimed that the site ripped off its look and some of its code. Meanwhile, Groovle.com, a Canadian site that lets users customise their search pages, won a case brought against it by Google (NSDQ: GOOG), when the search giant said Groovle’s domain name was too similar to its own.