Gov't gets serious in piracy sweep

The era of near-day-and-date releases of Hollywood pics on DVD at Chinese pirate stores appears to be over — for the moment.

As part of a 100-day, nationwide piracy crackdown that began in July, police and copyright officials have raided nearly 90,000 shops and street vendors selling pirate DVDs and ripoff software, closed down 3,014 shops and busted 9,500 vendors for selling fakes.

Nearly all of Beijing’s best-known outlets for high-quality pirate DVDs have been closed or driven underground — viewings by appointment only. Any stores still operating have only poor-quality merchandise or older products.

“The Devil Wears Prada” and “Superman Returns” were on sale in one outlet, which had removed its sign and looked closed from the outside except to the cognoscenti, but the quality was dreadful. Normally razor-sharp copies of these movies would be available by now.

The State Press & Publication Administration, which monitors China’s antipiracy efforts, said 8.4 million illegal CDs and DVDs have been confiscated during the drive.

Beijing’s poor protection of intellectual copyright has put a strain on relations with Washington over the years.

There are regular crackdowns on the open sale of pirate products in China’s cities, usually timed to coincide with the visit of a senior U.S. or EU politician.

But it’s generally business as usual as soon as the whistle-stop tour is over.

However, there are signs this campaign may be serious: It’s more widespread than usual and the tone of official utterances more severe.

“We are giving shopkeepers a stern lesson to make it clear that selling pirated products will lead to strict penalties,” said SPPA veep Liu Binjie.

SPPA is allowing vendors to hand in pirate copies as part of an amnesty, and org said more than 60% of shops nationwide have taken the offer.

“We will strike hard on those who ignore our warning and continue to sell such products. We will close every shop we find guilty of violations in the next two months,” Liu said.

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