Chinese courts hit Net cafes

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SHANGHAI -- Beijing courts promised heavier fines for Internet cafes that allow patrons to illegally download movies, laying down harsh fines for offenders, state-run media reported Thursday.

A maximum fine of 23,000 yuan ($3,300) fine was handed to one cafe for illegal distribution of the move Jet Li starrer "Assembly."

The film was produced by Huayi Brothers, one of China's top film studios, which also won smaller judgments against three other cafes, with fines ranging from 6,000 to 8,000 yuan for illegal distribution of the movie "Ke Ke Xi Li" (Mountain Patrol). The cafes also were ordered to remove the films from their online service.

The new rulings are part of a trend toward greater enforcement of intellectual property rights in China. According to government data, there were 2,600 IPR-related cases in 2007, up 11% from 2006.

The judge in the Beijing Internet cafe cases said that infringements occur in one of two ways: some outlets download movies without any authorization at all, while others sign service agreements with suppliers who falsely claim to have copyright authorization.

A third of China's Internet users use Internet cafes, where the majority of visitors watch movies, China Daily reported. China now has 221 million Internet users, putting it first in the world, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information.
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