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Pirated DVD mogul may get jail and fine

By Cui Xiaohuo (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-03 08:33

A Beijing man charged with copyright infringement might be sentenced to 14 months in prison and fined 80,000 yuan, the local procuratorate said yesterday.

Huang Yangsheng is accused of exporting more than 6,000 DVD discs of popular American drama series, Hollywood blockbusters and cartoon series to buyers in North America and Europe between 2006 and last year, the Beijing Tongzhou district procuratorate told METRO.

Huang had been attracting buyers with two English websites he set up in December 2006. The sites were only accessible by overseas Internet users, who could post requests for DVDs. Huang would run background checks on the buyers before mailing them the discs on demand, prosecutors said.

Huang also sold foreign buyers DVD players to run the discs, prosecutors said.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) tracked Huang's websites and reported his case to Chinese authorities in 2007. MPAA said Huang's actions constituted copyright infringement because his websites provided a large number of pirated video products from China to overseas consumers.

Chinese prosecutors said Huang had illegally netted more than 100,000 yuan in profit by selling the DVDs at $1.2 per disc, or 8.2 yuan.

MPAA officials in Beijing were not available for comments by the time of press yesterday.

Huang was arrested on the charge of illegal business operation in Tongzhou district last December.

This is not the first time MPAA has accused Chinese individuals or video providers of piracy in recent years.

Last year, on behalf of five movie production companies - Twentieth-Century Fox, Paramount, Walt Disney, Columbia and Universal - MPAA sued a Beijing-based web cast portal Jeboo.com for allegedly airing US movies online without authorization. The two sides settled out of court.

In 2007, MPAA also sued video outlets in Shanghai, collectively known as Ka De Club, for selling pirated Hollywood films on DVD.

Chinese authorities have long faced difficulties dealing with piracy infringement despite a regulation in 2007 to ban major web portals from playing authorized content. However, American drama and Hollywood movies remain available on Chinese web portals for free viewing.

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Insiders said popular portals such as Youku.com, Ku6.com and 56.com have ditched the government restriction by hiring a group of private content providers to upload pirated content in the evening that replaces material deleted by authorities in the daytime.

And expats in Beijing who have bought pirated DVD's say it is natural to do so.

"I think it's convenient to have pirated box sets in Beijing - and at this rate, I've seen more shows than many friends back in North America," said Maya Reid, a Canadian editorial consultant working for Beijing-based ChinAfrica magazine.

"Whether it's a good thing I can't say, it's more of a time killer than anything else and a nice way to keep yourself indoors when the winter winds really turn harsh."