China results mixed in antipiracy efforts

Piracy falls in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen but climbs in Beijing

First results of a recent antipiracy agreement between the Motion Picture Assn. and Chinese authorities drew a mixed review as the film industry announced both victories and losses against bootleggers in China.

Because of the agreement, which spells out enforcement efforts to protect newly released Hollywood movies, piracy rates fell dramatically in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the MPA said on Tuesday. But rates climbed significantly in Beijing.

Agreement, signed last July, stipulates that every three months the MPA submit to Chinese authorities a list of films member companies are about to screen in China. If any of those titles are available on the streets before, during or immediately after their theatrical release date — as they often are — authorities are to seize the illegal product and take action against sellers.

Of the films on the first list MPA submitted, no pirated copies were available in Shanghai, according to an MPA statement.

“In Guangzhou, the availability of pirated versions of the identified titles was down quite sharply from September,” the statement continued. “And in Shenzhen, the availability of pirated titles fell 50% from September. However, in Beijing, the results were not good, with the availability of pirated versions of identified titles actually increasing from September and, in general, available almost universally.”

While appreciative of the results in Shanghai and Guangzhou, MPA senior veep and regional director Mike Ellis said, “The results in Beijing show that there will be no quick fixes to China’s very serious piracy problem.”

MPA estimates that member companies lose as much as $280 million in revenue to piracy annually in China.

Also on Tuesday, the Dept. of Justice issued an 18-count indictment against an American citizen charged in the first joint U.S.-China intellectual property criminal investigation. Chinese authorities recently convicted expatriate Randolph Hobson Guthrie III for selling pirated movies in Shanghai. Earlier this month, China released him to U.S. authorities, who arrested him upon his extradition. Guthrie is alleged to have made more than $1 million in illegal profits.

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