Beijing Court: Chinese Online Video Company Infringed Copyrights

MPAA member studios welcome the decision against Beijing Funshion Online Technology, but are disappointed by the amount of damages awarded.

A Chinese court, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, has found peer-to-peer online video company Beijing Funshion Online Technology liable for copyright infringement.

Battling piracy and copyright infringements is an ongoing struggle for Hollywood in China. As it stands, there are few revenue streams available in China beyond theatrical because of widespread illegal downloads and pirated DVDs.

Funshion was found to have breached copyright rules, and plaintiffs, which included five members of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), were awarded damages of 50,000 yuan ($8,154) and expenses of 2,375 yuan ($387).

While welcoming the court's decision, MPAA member studios were disappointed with the level of damages awarded.

"This court verdict is encouraging to members of the filmmaking community in China who are committed to working as one to promote access to films and television shows via legitimate means only and to protect creative content," said Zhu Yongde, chairman of the China Film Copyright Association (CFCA).

However, Zhu said the low damages should be discussed and reconsidered. "It's clear that some websites offer pirated content because it costs them very little to attract audiences," he said. "Content owners are naturally concerned about their work being taken for free, so I hope the authorities can attach a high level of importance to this issue."

In a statement from the MPAA, Mike Ellis, president and managing director for the Asia Pacific region, said the decision sent a message that Chinese courts will uphold the rights of content creators against online sites that engage in infringing activity.

He said a healthy online business in China was only possible if the conditions for business are fair, equitable and protect intellectual property rights.

"Legitimate online business models are already made available in China, but these businesses cannot compete with commercial enterprises which make infringing content freely available," said Ellis.

He concluded: "We are pleased with the decision of the court, but disappointed with the inadequacy in damages awarded given the widespread online infringement and its harm to creators."