More than 4,000 arrested during copyright raids

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More than 4,000 people have been arrested for violating intellectual property rights (IPR) since last October as tougher punishments will be enforced to combat the "rampant" problem, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

Gao Feng, deputy director of the economic crimes investigation bureau at the Ministry of Public Security, told a news conference that his agency had uncovered more than 2,000 cases since China launched a six-month campaign to boost enforcement of intellectual property rights protection in October.

The financial value of the cases totaled 2.3 billion yuan ($348 million), Gao said, adding that the number of arrests and cases had tripled from the same time last year as had their financial value.

"On the one hand they demonstrate the achievements we've made in cracking down on the IPR violations, on the other hand they indicate that IPR violation is still rampant and frequent," Gao said. "So we want to introduce heavier punishments."

On Tuesday, the Supreme People's Court (SPC), the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security jointly issued a judicial document to enforce the crackdown on IPR infringement.

The document covers a number of areas concerning IPR violation including proof of collection, standard penalties that should be applied and accounting the transaction value.

"Our previous law enforcement experience showed that current laws and judicial interpretations are not clear or specific enough, especially considering the rising number of cases through the Internet," said Xiong Xuanguo, vice-president of the SPC.

Conviction of IPR violation will occur if a person puts other people's work, including print, music, film, TV, photo, video, record or software on the Internet for profit without the approval of the copyright holder where one of the following conditions apply: a transaction value of more than 50,000 yuan; more than 500 pieces of work; the hits reach 50,000; the number of registered members reaches more than 1,000 if membership is required for access.

"The clearer and more concrete legal basis will help the courts to try IPR violation cases," Xiong said. "The more specific the regulations, the more practical the law enforcement."

"In recent years, IPR infringements on the Internet have sharply increased in China, and the methods of committing such crimes have also become more complicated and technologically advanced," said Xiong, adding that it presents challenges not only to the courts, but also to police investigations.

According to the top court, 39,913 IPR cases were heard in courts between January and November 2010 - a year-on-year jump of 64 percent.

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