Americans in court for DVD bootlegs
Two Americans joined two Chinese partners in court yesterday accused of selling pirate DVDs on the Internet.
The case,involving sales of more than 180,000 DVDs and worth more than 7 million yuan (US$840,000), has been categorized as one of the top 10 IPR (intellectual property right) cases of the country in 2004 by the State Office of IPR Protection.
A judge from the Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People's Court said the four defendants, two Americans and two Chinese, could face a maximum jail term of 15 years.
The Bureau of Investigation of Economic Crimes under the Ministry of Public Security was sent a report from the US Embassy in China about the two Americans, based in Shanghai, who were accused of exporting pirate DVDs to more than 20 countries including the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada.
In July 2004, Guthrie III Randolph Hobson, the major defendant, was arrested and hundreds of thousands of pirate DVDs, receipts for mailing packages and computers were seized from his home, the court was told.
The other three, Abram Cody Thrush, Wu Dong and Wu Junbiao, were later arrested and charged with either helping the business, or delivering packages, knowing what they were doing was illegal.
"Hobson had been selling pirate DVDs on eBay and another website based in Russia since October 2002, and earned more than 2 million yuan (US$240,000) from the business," said the prosecutor.
"He ran the business without business licence or national licence for running audio and video products, was therefore charged with conducting business illegally."
Hobson argued that his conduct is not subject to any Chinese law.
"One hundred per cent of all my DVDs were sold outside China, all the money I got was never paid to any bank in China, and the Russian website was maintained in Russia and owned by a corporation in Panama. I never registered any company in China," he said.
"What I did was simply rent warehouse space to store the products and ship them abroad, which does not require any licence.
"I never gained any profit for the service I provided to the Panamanian company. All the money I got was used to buy more DVDs."
Hobson also claimed innocence about the DVDs being bootleg.
"I bought all my DVDs from shops that have been selling DVDs for years," he said.
The court will announce the verdict later.