Despite repeated crackdowns on online piracy, it is still a challenge to protect intellectual property rights, a top official said Thursday.
"Internet copyright infringement is still very prevalent in the country," Yan Xiaohong, vice-minister of the National Copyright Administration (NCA), told a press conference held by the State Council Information Office.
He noted that illegal downloading of movies, software and music is the most common form of online piracy.
Yan attributed the situation to the rapid development of the Internet industry and light punishment for violators, and pledged to work more closely with both the justice and telecommunications authorities to curb infringements.
He said that three nationwide crackdowns against online piracy since 2005 had achieved success, but "they only served to achieve limited results by dealing with a limited number of cases in a limited period of time".
Figures released Thursday show that in the latest crackdown from August to October last year, 1,001 copyright infringement cases were investigated, 60 percent more than the combined number in the two previous campaigns in 2005 and 2006.
The authorities closed 339 illegal websites, confiscated 123 servers and imposed fines of more than 870,000 yuan ($120,000) on violators, up 65 percent, 73 percent and 23 percent over 2006.
Of the cases handled, 31 were transferred to police, five times the number the previous year, according to police figures.
Ten major cases investigated last year were reported Thursday.
In one, Beijing-based Jinhudong Corporation is alleged to have illegally authorized others the use of more than 1,000 movies, raking in illegal gains in excess of 10 million yuan ($1.4 million). Three suspects have been arrested and the trial is on.
It is the biggest Internet piracy case uncovered in terms of the number of pirated movies and the amount of money involved, Gao Feng, deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security's economic crime division, said.
In the 10 cases reported, however, most violators received fines of less than 30,000 yuan ($4,000). One violator received a sentence of two years with two years' reprieve.
Yan called for tougher legislation. "Fines and sentences meted out have not been enough," he said. "We must make offenders realize the costs of violation are too high for them to continue."
The rapid growth of the Internet industry and wider access is another problem in anti-piracy efforts, Yan said.
The country has 210 million Internet users, second only to the United States, and 1.5 million websites, up 53 percent and 78 percent year-on-year, according to a report released Thursday by the China Internet Network Information Center.
Gao added that many violators host their servers abroad, which makes investigations even more difficult.