Investigation shows film has not been pirated

Chinese pirates have already riled up Sony a week ahead of the “Spider-Man 3″ launch — even though they haven’t sold actual pirated copies of the tentpole.

A Reuters report filed Tuesday out of Beijing said street vendors were already selling DVDs with “Spider-Man 3″ cover art for just over $1 each, even though the disc didn’t work subsequently on a DVD player. That development was sufficient for Sony to issue a press release.

“Our investigation in China has revealed no case of the film being pirated to date,” the studio declared. “Similar hoaxes and false alarms have occurred prior to the release of other major films. We have uncovered examples of ‘Spider-Man 2′ being sold in ‘Spider-Man 3′ boxes in China. But thus far we can find no instance where ‘Spider-Man 3′ has appeared on DVD.”

Sony also felt compelled to assert it’s found no pirated copies of “Spider-Man 3″ on the Internet.

Thus far, the only showings of the pic have come at heavily monitored preems, which started April 16 in Tokyo. “Spider-Man 3″ will open next Tuesday in China, France, Italy, Japan and South Korea — three days ahead of the domestic release.

In fact, the streets of Beijing Tuesday revealed little evidence of pirated DVDs.

Where in the past hawkers at stations were widely evident, their numbers appear to have thinned out in recent weeks and months. And many of the most prominent shops known for selling pirate DVDs now take a more guarded approach. Some now remain closed during daytime when authorities are more likely to check and only open in the evenings.

If there are fake “Spider-Man 3″ DVDs in circulation thay may be offered under the counter in an on-demand fashion, rather than the obvious attention-seeking ways of old.

(Clifford Coonan in Beijing contributed to this report.)

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