Chinese police bust long-running film piracy cases

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 2, 2019
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Directors and actors Wu Jing, Huang Bo and Shen Teng, as well as director and writer Han Han attend a Ministry of Public Security press conference with police officials in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, on April 29, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Yangzhou municipal government]

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) announced Monday it had resolved 25 cases of film piracy during the week-long Spring Festival holiday in February, and located the mysterious Ghost One film projector producing pirated films. 

The drive involved the arrest of 251 suspects, closure of 361 websites and 57 apps, and the seizure of seven servers for producing high-definition pirated movies and 14,000 pieces of equipment. The results were announced by the MPS at a press conference in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province.

Jiangsu police success in busting important sources for producing pirated movies and the related sales networks netted 13,673 pieces of equipment, including a server with a converted projector being sought for the past three years.

The mysterious server A15591, nicknamed "Ghost One" by police, had been technically modified and cloned years ago to hide its true IP address, so that the authorities could not track and locate the machine through normal technical methods. The server was able to avoid monitoring and could produce pirated high-definition copies, including 31 pirated full-length films produced from theatrical releases since 2017.

Police said four suspects had been able to copy copied movies, added watermarks, encrypting them and uploading them onto cloud drives. The suspects provided tens of thousands of copies of pirated films to film-bars that had paid the suspects for membership and made profits from illegal screenings.

As police from Zhejiang province destroyed an app that had spread the highest number of pirated films, their counterparts from Henan and Jiangxi provinces, Beijing and Shanghai also busted criminal gangs or illegal websites and apps, it was revealed.

Director/actors Wu Jing, Huang Bo and Shen Teng, as well as director and writer Han Han, attended the press conference. They said the crackdown on piracy protected the rights and interests of filmmakers and benefited sound development of the industry.

"A film is like a child to all those who created it, and the piracy is disrespect to everyone involved. This action is like human traffickers stealing our children, " said Shen Teng, who starred in two films, "Pegasus" and "Crazy Alien", released during the Spring Festival holiday period. 

According to incomplete statistics, piracy involving the eight films screened during the holiday, including the sci-fi blockbuster "The Wandering Earth", which now occupies second place in  China's all-time box office receipts, led to total losses of around 787 million yuan (US$116.85 million) to cinemas and legal video platforms.

Wu Jing, who produced and starred in "The Wandering Earth," said he was grateful for the joint efforts by police and relevant government departments to crack down on piracy, but warned, "merely relying on the police is not enough. Everyone in society should join hands and work against piracy, enhancing the awareness of the intellectual property protection."

In recent years, authorities including the MPS and the National Copyright Administration have been cracking down on copyright infringement on the Internet under a campaign known as "Sword Net". The ministry vowed to work with copyright and film administrations to improve industry supervision and build online supervision and management capacities with other departments. 

Huang Bo, meanwhile, said rampant piracy hurt filmmakers' interests and confidence, and harmed China's creative market. He suggested not only crackdown on the piracy producers but also targeting the target audience for pirated products, ensuring they would enjoy more high-quality licensed films conveniently provided on major video websites once the films end their theatrical runs.

One day before MPS press event, Yu Cike, director of the Copyright Administration under the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee revealed in Beijing that the National Copyright Administration and the MPS had formed a special task force to check 11 key provinces and cities, rigorously cracking down on stealthy recording and the spread of piracy and infringement, removing more than 30,000 infringing downloads links in a timely way, increasing copyright pre-warning protection and promoting social co-governance of copyright protection. 

"Next, the National Copyright Administration will carry out special action on theatrical releases copyright protection, further increase efforts to crack down on infringement and piracy of theatrical releases, strengthen self-discipline and actions of rights protection within the film and television sector, and promote relevant Internet enterprises to assume lead responsibility", he said. 

"At the same time, regarding the current situation that a large number of small piracy websites have servers located outside China, we will strengthen cross-border law enforcement cooperation with relevant countries and regions to jointly crack down on internet infringement and piracy. "

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