Mr and Mrs Xiao now spend their days watching pirated DVDs leftover from their business that was shut down a month ago. The couple had their licence revoked for selling pirated video products in a market in Shenyang's Sanhao Street.
In order to clean up the audio and video product market and better protect intellectual property rights (IPR), China's State Council launched a large-scale operation last year to crack down on IPR infringements nationwide.
Dozens of governmental departments were involved in the crackdown, including the Ministry of Commerce, local publication administrations, the police and customs agencies, in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Liaoning Province.
Shenyang's Sanhao Street was one of their main targets in northeast China's Liaoning Province, where piracy is widespread.
There are two major pirated audio and video product selling areas in Shenyang. One is in the south of the city on Sanhao Street and the other is in the Science and Technology Park of Liaoning University situated in the north part of Shenyang, said Wang Hongyu, head of Shenyang Anti-Pirated Enforcement Team, in a recent interview.
"These two centres provided over 90 percent of all pirated compact disks (CD) to the city residents. But now you can hardly find any pirated products there," said Wang.
The two markets involved in selling pirated audio and video products were closed down and 79 businesses had their licences revoked for selling pirated products.
Over 1.1 million audio-visual discs were confiscated and then later destroyed.
"In order to continue striking pirated CDs and DVDs, we have jointly formed a law enforcement team to monitor these markets around-the-clock everyday," Wang said.
His claim was backed by Wang Yi, once a regular consumer of the pirated products. He said that it is now hard to find pirated DVDs and software in Shenyang.
"You can now hardly see pirated CDs in the markets. And we will keep a close eye on these markets to ensure that they don't come back again," Wang Hongyu said.
With the disappearance of pirated products, the legal audio and video product dealers are benefiting directly from the campaign.
"My sales tripled in the past month compared with those before November. And I plan to order a larger range of products after Spring Festival," said Chen Tong, a software dealer in Sanhao Street.
"If piracy can be controlled and more customers purchase our copyrighted products, we can provide more of these products for cheaper prices in return in the future," said Feng Hongtao, manager of Dongke Audio and Video Chain Store.
However, some insiders are not so optimistic about the future.
"Still, there is a big gap in the prices between legal and pirated products. Customers will turn to the latter if the gap still exists and stays so large," said a pirated products dealer, surnamed Tang who declined to give her full name.
Most of the pirated computer games, DVDs, and some software products are sold under 10 yuan (US$1.25) in Sanhao while the legal ones cost over 100 yuan (US$12).
"I don't think customers will abandon pirated products as their price is five to 10 times cheaper while the quality is similar," said Tang.
Mark Cohen, the intellectual property attache of the US Embassy in Beijing, once agreed that China has made a big effort to crack down on piracy and improve public awareness of IPR protection.
But he also agreed that it is not an easy task.
"The point is that the government can only encourage IPR protection. But it should help individuals protect their goods by themselves," he said.
There are two solutions to this, one is to stop piracy and the other is to provide legal products.
China keeps working on improving the protection legislation with judiciaries adopting a more hard line approach for IPR violators.
It has made clear that offenders pirating more than 250,000 yuan's (US$30,000) worth of copyrighted products can be jailed for up to seven years.
Since the beginning of the campaign, Chen has been providing more discounts on legal products to encourage more legitimate sales.
"If the government gets rid of pirated products and we provide cheaper legitimate ones, the future market will become more promising," said Chen.
(China Daily February 6, 2006)