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DVD Maker Fights Pirates

A Guangdong-based DVD maker is cooperating with the government to curb the proliferation of pirated discs by providing legal DVDs at an affordable price to movie fans.

But fans have not appreciated the DVD maker's efforts and initiative, complaining of inferior quality compared to the pirated DVDs.

"The price is now acceptable," said Wu Bin, a frequent buyer of DVDs, referring the 10 yuan (US$1.2) he paid for "Cellphone," a New Year blockbuster produced by China's well-known director Feng Xiaogang." But the quality is not even as good as pirated ones I have bought."

The film's official DVD version is produced by the Guangdong Zoke Communications Co Ltd. Zoke launched the DVD in the market with an average price of 10 yuan a week after the movie's premiere, giving the pirates short notice and hitting them in the pocket.

Zoke is also intensifying efforts to crack down on pirated DVDs.

In "Cellphone," the company reportedly spent 2 million yuan together with Huayi Brothers and Taihe Film Investment Co Ltd to fight against pirated discs. The two firms apparently succeeded in blocking the pirated DVDs of the movie from being sold in the market.

"I could not believe when I discovered that it is almost impossible to find any pirated DVDs of this movie (Cellphone) in the market." said Wu.

"No pirated DVDs of this movie are available from any distribution channels," said a DVD shop owner surnamed Wang, whose store currently sells legal DVDs at a negotiable price of 10 yuan.

Zoke used to sell its DVDs at around 30 yuan each while pirated DVDs are usually sold at around 8 yuan.

But Wu's complaint of poor quality was reinforced by several others. On several Websites created by DVD fans, people posted sarcastic comments about Zoke's products.

"I hope the legal products could compete against the pirated ones not only on price but on quality as well," a Netizen named DVD24 said on the popular DVD online forum (www.chat001.com) "The pirated DVDs could be played on my computer, but not Zoke's products."

But Zoke maintained that the so-called quality problems were deliberately enmeshed into their products.

"To prevent our products from being burned by CD recorders, the way the pirates usually do, they are designed not be able to be played on a computer's DVD-ROM," Zoke's spokesman Ouyang Xingpeng explained. "This appears to be the reason of quality problem some customers are complaining."

He insisted that the image quality is generally good but many fans still said they were upset by the poor image quality of Zoke's products.

Many consumers suspected that Zoke has to keep the production cost down to compensate for the high fees paid for royalties. It spent 8 million yuan to buy the copyright of "Cellphone."

Weikai and Feishi, two Guangdong-based audio & video product companies, shared the record high copyright royalty fee of 17.8 million yuan for Zhang Yimou's blockbuster "Hero" about two years ago.

While the copyright fee keeps rising, the DVD price has to remain low to compete against the pirates. The outcome is that one has to sacrifice the quality to cut the cost of production, said one industry source.

(Shanghai Daily January 21, 2004)

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