If Chinese viewers want to watch Disney's Hannah Montana — no accounting for global tastes — they can do so on 56.com, an online-video site akin to YouTube. The show is pirated. But does Disney really mind? Its startup-investment arm, Steamboat Ventures, put money into 56.com two years ago.Eric Garland, CEO of an online piracy research firm, told the Wall Street Journal Disney's investment in 56.com is "ironic" and "shocking." John Ball, Steamboat's managing director, says the company invested in part to help 56.com curb pirated videos. But 56.com is just one of six Chinese companies in Steamboat's portfolio, all of which aim to distribute movies and videogames online. And that's the dirty secret of Disney and other media companies. They don't ultimately care about shows like Hannah Montana. What matters is their channels of distribution, through which such evanescent fare courses — and 56.com promises to be another one. Viacom isn't suing YouTube for $1 billion because it's upset about piracy. It's upset about piracy happening on a channel it doesn't own.
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