You may have heard that Alibaba is going public.

In a big way, perhaps the biggest IPO ever.  It boggles my mind that the world’s biggest facilitator of counterfeit goods is meeting with such investor acclaim.

One of my jobs is working on copyright protection, both for Wild Apple and for the Art Copyright Coalition.  Which means I spend a lot of time on Alibaba, and its subsidiaries Taobao and Tmall. These websites are sort of like a Chinese eBay or Amazon, where independent sellers post their offerings. There are enough prints, paintings, and products using stolen art to keep a counterfeit hunter endlessly busy. The particularly evil companies are ones who have scanned posters (purchased legally, once), and now offer the digital files for sale. The Alibaba sites are in Chinese, which makes searching difficult, but you can have Google translate whatever page you are on.

There may be a thin silver lining to the IPO. Recently Alibaba instituted something they call AliProtect, which is supposed to help copyright holders take down infringing product, and even get serial infringers kicked off (until they restart under another name). It appears to be a cumbersome bureaucratic process, but we intend to use it. I’ll be sure to report progress (or lack thereof) in the future.

My hope is that the IPO hoopla brings continued attention on Alibaba and puts pressure on it to clean up its counterfeit act.