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City Finds Innovative Way to Fight Piracy
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Photos of bulldozers crushing huge piles of confiscated pirated discs are a frequent sight in the Chinese media.

But Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, is trying a different approach: Sellers of illegal discs can exchange three pirated discs for one legal one.

More than 120,000 pirated video and software discs have been handed in since the project was launched last week.

"The pirated discs will be sent to legal disc producers in Guangdong, where they will be re-cycled. It is expected that more discs will be handed in the coming days," said Du Kailin, general manager of the Nanjing-based Jiangsu Zhongyi Video Products Exhibition and Sales Centre, who initiated the project.

The 40-plus legal disc sellers in Du's centre used to suffer from piracy when the centre was opened last August, according to Du, explaining why he has invested "several million" yuan to fund the project.

After investigating the piracy market, Du found that sellers of pirated products suffer from very narrow profit margins. But they stay away from legal business because they are not familiar with producers of copyrighted products and also have difficulty getting rid of their huge stocks of pirated discs.

Learning this, Du hit upon the idea of linking illegal disc sellers with legal disc producers in Guangdong, with whom he has long-term business partnerships.

Persuading illegal disc sellers to co-operate with him was not easy. With support from local authorities, Du has held more than 30 meetings with illegal disc sellers since last December, informing them of government policies and measures to curb piracy, and showing them the potential profits from selling copyrighted products.

Du's effort paid off this May as eight pirated disc sellers agreed to go with him on a trip to Guangdong to become more familiar with the business process.

Wang Hu was one of the eight retailers, and this week he handed in more than 20,000 pirated discs.

"Piracy has cost me a lot. I have been fined more than a million yuan (US$125,000)," said Wang. "Feeling ashamed of my job, my daughter never talks with her friends about my profession."

Many pirated disc retailers in Nanjing approved of the project, saying it will help them gain a foothold in the industry.

"We used to earn lots before 2000 when legal products were sold at a very high price. But we can earn only one yuan (12 US cents) or less now on a pirated disc, while the profit margin for a legal one is three to four yuan (37-50 cents)," said Luo Linxu, a former pirated disc retailer.

"Du's effort brings us into the industry chain. The current deal actually gives us the first group of products to initiate our brand new career as a legal disc retailer," said Luo.

Authorities and members of the public were divided on the initiative.

"It is a good thing that sellers of pirated discs want to conduct legal business. But we will wait to see their long-term behaviour. And we will never stop our check-ups on disc retailers," said Shi Zhengdong, chief of the Piracy Control Bureau under Nanjing Municipal Bureau of Culture.

Shi said that Nanjing has been tougher than ever on piracy in recent years, an important factor in forcing illegal disc sellers to give up.

But Meng Qingfen, a local citizen, disagreed.

"Government bureaus should confiscate all pirated discs without exception, and fine or even put illegal disc sellers into prison," he said.

(China Daily July 20, 2006)

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