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Police Pluck Bird Flu Research Base to Find DVD Pirates
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Chinese police have nabbed a pirate DVD production and sales ring that had concealed their operation in a supposed bird flu research base in east China's Jiangxi Province.

Zheng Deming, head of the provincial anti-pornography and anti-illegal publications office, said police in Jiangxi, Hubei and Guangzhou seized at least 16 alleged members of a fake DVD ring which has produced and sold about 26.4 million DVDs in two years.

Zheng said they received reports from local residents last April that a large number of fake DVDs were being transported by air from Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi, to other cities in the country.

They discovered that the DVDs were produced in a factory in Liantang Town in Nanchang County, Zheng said.

Zheng said local police spent months on monitoring the factory before raiding it last November and seizing about 100,000 pirated DVDs and four production lines. Eleven suspects, including the boss of the factory, surnamed Feng, were detained.

Another 100,000 illegal DVDs and five suspects were later seized in a storage area in neighboring Hubei Province.

Investigation shows that Feng moved the factory from Guangdong to Jiangxi in June 2004, when police in south China intensified their hunt for fake publications, Zheng said.

He let word get around that his factory was a research base for bird flu, and managed to keep local residents away, Zheng said.

Feng kept the factory locked, and did not allow workers to come out during the day, Zheng said.

Zhang Wu, director of the criminal investigation team of the Jiangxi airport police brigade, said most of the fake DVDs were sold in big cities such as Guangzhou and Beijing, and sales volume reached more than 30 million yuan (about US$3.8 million) in two years.

"Like Feng, many DVD production factories are moving from big cities, where the market is, to rural inland towns, where they hope to escape detection," Zhang said.

Zhang said the suspects face criminal charges and heavy fines.

China is determined to crack down on illegal publications and protect intellectual rights.

Statistics from China's Supreme People's Procuratorate show that in 2006, 1,224 people were arrested on intellectual property rights infringement charges, up 44.9 percent over 2005. In the first quarter this year, 578 more offenders were arrested on intellectual property rights charges, up 19.4 percent over the figure last year.

In the on-going nationwide campaign aimed at promoting intellectual property rights protection, millions of fake DVDs and software have been destroyed.

Police in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, gave local residents movie tickets in return for fake DVDs and destroyed the discs in public. Chen Xianwei, head of the city police inspection team, said the aim was to raise people's awareness of intellectual property rights.

But China is still awash in cheap, cut-rate DVDs.

In a recently-published book on intellectual property rights protection, 88 percent of the interviewees said they had bought pirated books, discs or software.

"The cinema entrance price of a blockbuster movie like the Lord of the Rings is 60 yuan (about US$7.7), almost 15 times the price of a pirated DVD," said Tao Xinliang, director of the School of Intellectual Property Rights at Shanghai University.

Tao said the price differential continues to drive the production of fake DVDs despite the government crackdown. At night, on street corners, peddlers continue to hawk the latest titles.

Tao said the Chinese government is really getting tough on cracking piracy, meting out heavier fines and more severe punishment on offenders, but more work is needed.

"Raids and seizures are important, but we also need to raise public awareness and lower prices of legal DVDs and other publications," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency April 27, 2007)

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