Chinese officials are cracking down on the piracy of DVDs so as to make the entertainment video market safe for foreign intellectual property rights.
The move underscores the central government's commitment to cleaning up the market since it had not previously launched a special campaign to clamp down on Digital Video Discs - a technically advanced and more expensive version of VCDs.
The Ministry of Culture has been joined in the campaign by the copyright administration and public security departments.
A joint circular issued throughout all provincial governments urges joint investigations into illegal outlets. The hope is that tip-offs on piracy production sources will stem the flow of demos from abroad.
The action follows a spate of crackdowns on VCDs and software piracy and other audio and video counterfeits that resulted in the demolition of a host of large manufacturing sources in Guangdong and Yunnan provinces.
Despite the clean-up efforts, piracy is far from being eradicated.
Liu Changchun, a DVD distributor, worries that before his company is authorized to distribute the DVD version of movie blockbuster "Harry Potter," the market will have already been siphoned away by pirated copies.
"We always lose out because they can sell a DVD copy of an uncut version recorded from US theaters with lightning speed," said Liu, a manager at Beijing Dongfang Audio & Video Corporation.
Liu's firm is one of the few enfranchised distributors of videos of Hollywood movies in China.
The government's crackdown, which Liu said was overdue, was prompted by China's entry into the World Trade Organization, in which China must create a level playing field for business interests.
"If the piracy problem is going unchecked, how can you convince foreigners to do business? And if they hold back, China loses the investment opportunity and the chance to bolster the growth of its gross domestic product," said Yan Dongfan, a market analyst on audio and video piracy issues in Beijing.
Liu Luping, a Ministry of Culture official in charge of the crackdown, agreed. Besides the ongoing anti-piracy campaign, revisions on the major regulatory framework of the audio and video market have already been made, officials said.
The penalties for piracy have been stiffened, and marketing channels for the counterfeits have been reduced.
Liu Changchun said piracy is more common in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai than in other provinces.
Li Dongping, a shop assistant in a Carrefour outlet in Chaoyang District, said distributors have only themselves to blame for letting the problem balloon.
Li said authentic DVDs are too expensive and too outdated to satisfy most consumers. That needs to change if distributors want to stay in business, Li said.
Echoed DVD customer Zhang Ji: "If I want to see a DVD of 'Pearl Harbour,' I have to wait maybe another 10 months before it comes out, and that's too long -especially when I can buy as many as 8 different (pirated) DVDs for the same price as one authentic DVD."
(China Daily November 26, 2001)