Of all the major industrialized countries in the world, China stands out as a leader in doing very little about intellectual property infringement. Online piracy is rampant in the country and is quickly becoming a national pastime among its youth.
In 2008 and 2009 the Chinese authorities did make some moves against several file-sharing sites, although this was mainly due to them being unlicensed or offering ‘horrific’ or pornographic videos.
One file-sharing site, VeryCD, China’s biggest eDonkey links site, escaped closure but did receive stern warnings. However, in terms of linking to mainstream copyright movies, it carried on its business as usual.
Now, rather than receiving unwanted attention from the authorities, the site has become the target of a very rare event in China. Along with several other sites, VeryCD is now being sued for copyright infringement, specifically for providing links to the recently released martial arts movie, Ip Man 2.
During a press conference the China Film Copyright Protection Association (CFCPA) announced that together with Dasheng International Media (DIM), the studio that owns the rights to Ip Man 2, it has filed a lawsuit against VeryCD in the Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People’s Court.
President of DIM, An Xiaofen, said that the movie was made available via VeryCD just a week after its release in late April. By May 5th it had been downloaded 10,000,000 times.
An Xiaofen said that he expected that around one third of those downloads equate to actual lost sales which meant his company had lost around 100 million yuan ($14.76m). The actual court claim against VeryCD is more modest – 11.85 million yuan ($1.73m)
“In the first half of this year 110 Chinese-language films were released in China, but only 13 made money, that means 90% of the films are losing money”, he explained. “In such circumstances, anti-piracy actions are even more important.”
After ignoring to requests to cease their activities, the operators of two further websites, 365pub.com and cnnip.com, are also being sued by CFCPA for allegedly providing movies and download services to Internet cafes. Some Internet cafes themselves will also be sued.
According to CFCPA, movie piracy on the Internet is rampant in China. It claims that in the 18 to 35 year old bracket, 50.5% watch movies illegally online, each averaging 31.1 movies per year.