It looks as if China wants to be taken seriously in its ability to
enforce intellectual property rights. Sohu.com, the very popular
Chinese Internet portal, was offering a subscription service which
allowed customers to download over 100 American movies. But now the
Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court has ordered Sohu to pay
1,085,000 yuan ($138,850) and publish an acknowledgment of its
“The studios won’t hesitate to litigate, whenever appropriate, to enforce against the unauthorized use of their copyrights,” explained Mike Ellis, Asia-Pacific regional director of the Motion Picture Association, which is constantly fighting for Hollywood studios.
Since recent trade negotiations between the U.S. and China have been branded “high profile,” the speculation is that China’s courts are now more likely to rule in favor of copyright and patent holders (in this case, Hollywood). Another example: On December 22 a Shanghai court ruled in favor of the Motion Picture Association (Hollywood) against a DVD retailer that was selling pirated movies.
All of this legal action is happening at a time when China is seeing tremendous growth in Internet usage. The China Internet Network Information Center announced today that Internet users in China has grown to 132 million this year, a 30% increase from last year. And China is the second largest population of Internet users (the U.S. is still in first place).
The Motion Picture Association seems to be aware of this growth with its stream of lawsuits in the country. The association claims that it has won more than 15 lawsuits in China and has 35 pending.
But it’s still too early to tell if this can be considered any kind of victory for Hollywood studios. In fact, studios such as Fox and Warner Bros. have recently shifted strategies in the fight against movie piracy by offering low-priced legitimate DVDs in China.