MPAA Wins Copyright Infringement Case Against Chinese Streaming-Video Site

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Although once rampant, film and television piracy has become less of a threat in China, thanks to collective action by the MPAA, government authorities and local industry stakeholders.

The Motion Pictures Association of America has notched another victory against copyright infringement in China.

On Monday, a Chinese court in Shenzhen found Xunlei Networking Technologies Co., a large online video company based in southern China, guilty of infringing upon the copyrights of over two dozen U.S. movie titles.

The MPAA brought the case on behalf of its member studios in January 2015. The Shenzhen court found Monday that Xunlei did not have the authorization to make the movies available to the public via its websites, f.xunlei.com and kuai.xunlei.com. The court awarded damages of RMB1.4 million (about $210,000) and legal costs of RMB162,400 ($24,000).

As recently as five years ago, piracy remained rampant in China and was considered a major hindrance to the local entertainment market's healthy development. But Chinese courts and industry players have since made great strides in stamping it out.

In the early days of the Chinese internet, most copyright complaints were made by overseas rights holders or local government parties. But as China's domestic internet giants, such as Baidu, Tencent and others, moved into acquiring international entertainment rights and creating content of their own, their incentives around IP violations shifted. Once viewed as abetting piracy by profiting from linking to it, China's major internet companies are now more likely to play the part of a powerful ally to foreign rights holders.

In May, a Beijing court awarded Tencent more than $1 million in damages after streaming site Baofeng Technology infringed upon Tencent's exclusive rights to stream The Voice of China, the popular local version of John de Mol's hit singing format. Similarly, search giant Baidu has gone from being a regular defendant in copyright cases to a frequent plaintiff. 

Reflecting such changes, the number of lawsuits aimed at protecting IP rights has surged. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, nearly 87,000 copyright-related cases were filed in China last year, a 15-fold increase from 2006.

"We are heartened that the court in Shenzhen has found in favor of strong copyright," said Mike Ellis, president and managing director of the MPAA in Asia Pacific. "The legitimate Chinese film and television industry has worked hard to provide audiences with a wide range of legal options for their audio-visual entertainment — a marketplace that has flourished because of the rights afforded to copyright owners under the law."   

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