Piracy push targets Internet cafes

Chinese authorities take aim at coffee houses

Continuing the attack on China’s copyright pirates, authorities are cracking down on the use of Internet cafes to watch pirated films and imposing stiffer punishments for copyright infringement.

Meanwhile, the Motion Picture Assn. and the Intl. Federation of the Phonographic Industry will hand out 300,000 booklets outlining the evils of illegal P2P to students.

The Beijing High People’s Court promised that tougher penalties were in the offing after three local courts dealt with 10 movie copyright infringement cases involving Internet cafes.

In one case, Chinese producer Huayi Brothers won its lawsuit against three cafes for screening helmer Chuan Lu’s “Mountain Patrol,” the pic it produced with Columbia Pictures Asia. The Xicheng District People’s Court ruled the cafes had infringed Huayi’s right to online dissemination of information. It ordered the cafes to remove the movie from their online services and pay 6,000-8,000 yuan ($860 to $1,145) in compensation to Huayi.

Courts in Dongcheng and Chaoyang districts dealt with seven similar cases, including piracy of Huayi hit “Assembly” by a cafe, which was ordered to pay compensation of $3,300. Internet cafes are the second most popular way of going online, and China has about 113,000 licensed cafes and many more that operate illegally.

Last year, courts in the capital dealt with more than 2,600 disputes involving intellectual property rights, up 11% on 2006.

Meanwhile, the MPA is engaged in a major drive against piracy in China. Its student booklet “Respect Creativity, Use Legally” warns that users of P2P file-sharing services may expose their computers to viruses, worms, Trojan horses and annoying pop-ups and risk data loss and identify theft.

The MPA and the China Assn. for Educational Technology have also jointly invited students in China’s elementary, middle and junior high schools to provide work in any format they like on intellectual property protection.

The MPA reckons that of the $6.1 billion in lost revenue through piracy in 2005, $1.2 billion came from piracy across the Asia-Pacific region, only slightly less than the amount in the U.S.

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