Officials defended China’s efforts to stop rampant copying of movies and other goods, saying Thursday that 4,322 people were convicted of product piracy last year and promising special efforts to protect Olympics-related trademarks.
China is the world’s biggest source of illegally copied goods and trade groups say violations are growing despite increased penalties and repeated crackdowns. The illicit trade is fueling tensions with Washington, which has filed a World Trade Organization case over Beijing’s failure to stamp it out.
“The Chinese government has taken concrete steps and its success is there for all to see,” Yi Xintian, a spokesman for the State Intellectual Property Office, said at a news conference.
In an annual report, the agency said authorities seized nearly 76 million pirated movies, software discs and other goods last year and shut down 13,170 piracy-oriented businesses.
Yi said courts convicted 4,322 people of product piracy, though he said he did not know what penalties they received.
Officials said they are making special efforts to prevent unlicensed use of Olympics-related logos and other property ahead of the Beijing Summer Games in August.
“We are extending comprehensive and strict protection to Olympic intellectual property,” Yi said. “The Chinese government has the resolve and capability to make sure that during the Olympic Games we create a favorable climate for intellectual property.”
Chinese markets are awash in illegally copied goods ranging from software and Hollywood movies to designer clothes, sports equipment and medications. Industry groups say Chinese and foreign companies lose tens of billions of dollars a year in potential sales to piracy.
Washington filed a WTO complaint in April 2007 accusing Beijing of violating its trade commitments by failing to stop product piracy.
Film studios have won lawsuits against pirate DVD vendors and have begun filing cases against Web sites accused of allowing downloads of unlicensed movies.
But some 93 percent of DVDs sold in China are unlicensed, according to the Motion Picture Association, which represents Hollywood studios. Many are sold openly on sidewalks in Beijing and other major cities.
In a report last year, the Business Software Alliance said 82 percent of software used in China is pirated, thought it said that rate was down from more than 90 percent in earlier years.
The deputy director of China’s copyright agency said the government is still in the midst of a campaign launched in 2006 to see that Chinese companies use only licensed software. He said authorities have no time frame for completing the effort.
“We need time because our regime has not been in place a long time,” said the official, Xu Chao. “We hope Western countries can grant us more time. The international community has to be patient.”