MPA wins case, but China pirates vanish into thin air

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The convicted pirates in an important film copyright violation case have disappeared, a Beijing court official said Wednesday, highlighting the difficulty of cracking down on rampant DVD piracy here and leaving the plaintiffs, five Hollywood studios, with little chance of collecting the costs and damages awarded.

The MPA, representing the studios, mounted the case in August and on Tuesday declared the verdict and the $20,964 in costs and damages awarded a "milestone" and evidence that its increased efforts to fight piracy alongside Chinese officials are paying off (HR 12/19).

The verdict will be publicized in a Chinese legal newspaper for 60 days. "After 60 days, the verdict is considered received by the defendants," he said. If the defendants cannot be found after 60 days, the verdict is, in the court's view, "just a piece of paper."

A court official said that the award in the case was broken down as follows: Each plaintiff was to receive 20,000 yuan ($2,560) to cover legal fees and 4,000 yuan ($512) for each of its movie titles stolen and reproduced on illegal DVDs. Universal and Fox each had five titles represented in the case, the Walt Disney Co. had three, Paramount had two and Columbia had one.

"It will be difficult to collect the compensation," the court official said.

The MPA declined to discuss how much it spent to mount the case. Ellis said that he felt the convicted got what was coming to them.

"A pirate who has been convicted in court, ordered to pay damages and costs, and whose business is no longer in operation, has not gotten away with anything."

As to finding the defendants, the court official said that the last registered address of the parent company was in a building called the Long Fu Mansion in north central Beijing, which was demolished three years ago. Checks with the Beijing Commercial and Industrial Bureau, the issuer of business licenses here, showed no address for either defendant on record.

Before the trial, which began in the absence of the defendants in September, and closed Monday without their ever having set foot in court, Judge Song Guang of the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court told plaintiffs Columbia, Disney, Fox, Paramount and Universal that representatives of the Yu Hao Qing DVD shop in downtown Beijing and its parent company, Beijing Century Hai Hong Trading Co. Ltd., could not be found.
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