China arrests 2,600 in piracy crackdown

Authorities destroy 63 mil CDs

BEIJING — China has arrested 2,600 people in an eight-month crackdown on product piracy, the government said Tuesday, criticizing U.S. complaints that it is failing to stop rampant copying of foreign movies, music and other goods.

Authorities have destroyed 63 million CDs and other counterfeit goods estimated to be worth ¥860 million ($105 million), vice commerce minister Zhang Zhigang said during a nationally televised news conference.

Zhang acknowledged China still faces “quite a few problems,” but he criticized the United States for adding Beijing to a list of 14 countries that receive special scrutiny due to widespread violation of copyrights and other intellectual property rights.

“China has made great efforts to promote (intellectual property rights) protection,” Zhang said. “Under such circumstances, to accuse China of misconduct or lack of protection of IPR is unreasonable.”

The U.S. said in April that product piracy in China had reached “epidemic levels” and has warned Beijing that it could face formal complaints in the World Trade Organization, raising the threat of trade sanctions.

China is regarded as the world’s biggest source of illegally copied goods. Estimates of potential lost sales to legitimate producers worldwide range from $16 billion to as much as $50 billion a year. China’s own producers of music, software and other goods have said they also suffer huge losses.

Authorities have brought 600 criminal cases against product pirates since the crackdown began in August, and have won convictions in 99.9% of cases, said Shen Deyong, deputy chief judge of China’s high court, who appeared at the news conference with Zhang. Shen didn’t say how many people were convicted or what penalties they received.

Zhang said 41 local officials also were punished for helping product pirates, and that Chinese authorities have dismantled 24 illegal CD factories — a key demand of U.S. officials, who say seizing pirated discs makes little sense if the factories that make them are still operating.

Beijing plans to extend the crackdown through the end of the year, Zhang said. “We’ll be looking for a solution to address the root cause of the IPR problem, and have increased our public education efforts.”

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