China jails pirate under tougher law

MPA hails jailing as step in right direction

HONG KONG -- A Chinese court has made its first conviction and has sentenced a retailer of pirated DVDs under tougher year-old copyright laws, the Motion Picture Assn. said Tuesday.

On April 25, the Chaoyang District People's Court convicted Zhou Cheng, of selling illegal copies of films including MPA member company films “American Gangster,” “Spider Man 3” and “Transformers,” along with other non-Hollywood films, the MPA said.

Zhou was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 10,000 yuan (U.S.$1,431). Zhou, 40, was arrested in December after a raid of his Chaoyang shop in China's capital turned up 10,934 pirate DVD's, 849 of which infringed MPA companies' copyrights.

Last April, China's Supreme People's Court reinterpreted copyright enforcement laws, guiding judges to bust pirates caught with a lower number of discs than previously considered criminal. Older rules frequently saw pirates get off with no jail time and fines considered a cost of doing business.

"Well-publicized criminal convictions with deterrent custodial sentences are an essential element of any strategy to discourage piracy and protect the creative industries,” Mike Ellis, the MPA's president and managing director in Asia, said.

“While welcoming the result and acknowledging the great effort that went into this case, it will be meaningless unless authorities throughout China follow through with many more similar cases.”

China faces two U.S. intellectual property rights violation lawsuits in the World Trade Organization.