China DVD pirates slapped with fine

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SEOUL -- A Beijing court ordered two pirated DVD retailers to pay $27,795 to six major Hollywood studios this week, but the offenders escaped criminal charges that could carry prison terms, the MPA said Friday.

The Beijing Xicheng District People's Court on Thursday and Friday ordered the Beijing Yongsheng Century International Cultural Co. Ltd. and its Century En Ze branch to pay the damages after finding them guilty of copyright infringement for selling pirated versions of MPA member company movies, the MPA said in a statement.

"The rulings ... demonstrate that Chinese courts continue to be supportive of copyright holders' efforts to vigorously defend their property," MPA Asia-Pacific regional counsel Frank Rittman said. Rittman added, however, that the MPA and its members "continue to feel that that the court's award represents little more than a slap on the wrist."

China faces action brought by the U.S. Trade Representative at the World Trade Organization for a wide array of piracy issues involving things ranging from films to pharmaceuticals to car parts.

The Beijing court's fine was levied after the MPA provided capital law enforcement with evidence of the sale of pirated movies at Beijing Yongsheng Century 17 times over the past two years.

The authorities the MPA informed included the Beijing Copyright Bureau, the Beijing Culture Task Force and the Chaoyang district police. During that time, the authorities have raided the defendant's premises six times, seizing more than 16,000 pirated optical discs.

Although Beijing Yongsheng Century previously was fined 30,000 yuan ($3,965), authorities have never filed criminal charges and the retailer was open for business earlier this week, offering pirated DVDs to customers in a back room of its premises, the MPA said.

"That pirated discs were available at this outlet only a few days ago underscores the contempt these criminals have for the law," Rittman said, adding that one of the reasons that the MPA believes that 93% of the discs sold in China are sold in violation of copyright is the pent-up demand caused partly by a lack of free market access due to a strictly enforced 20-title quota on imported films.
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