Authorities are determined to prevent unauthorized companies and individuals from broadcasting Olympic events, an official from the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) said Monday.
"No website, mobile phone platform or individual is permitted to transmit audio and video information regarding the Beijing Olympic Games or events within the mainland without a copyright or copyright holders' authorizations," Xu Chao, deputy director of the copyright management department of the NCAC, told a press conference in Beijing.
Webcasts of Olympic-related programs have become commonplace since the Olympic torch gathering ceremony on March 24 and the ensuing torch relay, Xu said, adding that the administration, together with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and copyright holders, are monitoring illegal transmissions on domestic websites.
These bodies have sent attorneys' letters to more than 20 websites engaging in illegal transmissions.
On receipt of the letters, the websites, except a handful including Pomoho.com, one of China's largest video download sites, immediately deleted content that qualified as infringing the rules, Xu said.
Pomoho.com was banned last week from illegally webcasting Beijing Olympics webcasts. It was the first instance of Chinese copyright authorities' stopping illegal Olympic transmissions.
Penalties including warnings, orders to delete unlicensed content, fines, the shutting down of servers and confiscation of facilities and equipment, Xu said.
In cases where the illicit income earned from infringements reaches 30,000 yuan ($4,400) and above, violators will be prosecuted for criminal liability and face prison sentences of between one and seven years, he said.
It is important to impose strict penalties on illegal transmissions, because "problems remain in intellectual property rights protection although many achievements have been made in the sector", he said.
Olympic Games events that will be protected include audio and video content of 3,800 hours of Olympic events, the opening and closing ceremonies, test events, cultural events before and after the Olympics, Olympic flame gathering and torch relays.
The IOC has awarded the TV broadcast and cable rights for the mainland and the Macao special administrative region to China Central Television, and that for new media to CCTV.
The government encourages calls reporting instances of Olympic piracy from copyright holders and the public on any of its 12,390 anti-piracy telephone hotlines, Xu said.