Studios win case vs. China pirates

Pair ordered to pay fine

SHANGHAI — Five Hollywood studios have won damages in a Chinese court from a Beijing-based company that sold pirated DVDs, the Motion Picture Assn. announced Tuesday.

Beijing Century Haihong Trading and one of its retail outlets, Yu Hao Qing DVD, were ordered on Monday to pay damages of 164,000 yuan (just under $21,000) to Columbia Pictures, Universal, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney for copyright infringement.

Judge Song Guang of the Beijing 2nd Intermediate People’s Court also ordered the defendants to desist from illegal sales of pirated movies.

“The outcome of this action is an important milestone in the effort to educate people that respect for copyright is important, and that there is a price to pay for copyright infringement,” said Frank Rittman, MPA veep-regional legal counsel, Asia-Pacific. Org coordinated the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The studios teamed to file suits against the company for selling pirated DVD copies of 16 films for which they owned rights, including “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “The Incredibles.”

It was reported in the local press that the studios had been seeking more than $60,000 in damages.

China recently announced a crackdown on piracy, timed to coincide with last week’s visit to Beijing of U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

The MPA maintains that film piracy, which it estimates accounts for 93% of all films watched in China, is boosted by lack of market access for foreign movies, still subject to an annual exhibition quota and frequent blackout periods when release schedules are cleared of imported product to promote the domestic industry.