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Chinese TV Series Viewed Illegally in Japan
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On August 19 China's copyright holders began litigation against a Japanese TV station for broadcasting unauthorized TV series. This is one of the few Chinese intellectual property litigations against Japan. Evidence submitted by the Japanese side in court discoveries showed that Japanese TV stations have broadcast up to 500 unauthorized Chinese TV series, totaling nearly 9000 episodes.

In 2005 according to Beijing Chidong Culture & Media Company, the copyright holder of the TV series Maror Flowers (Chinese name: Ku Cai Hua) discovered that their production was broadcast by SKYperfecTV on Channel 785 without any authorization. The Chidong Culture & Media issued a warning letter, but SKYperfecTV did not stop broadcasting. The company hired Japanese lawyers to file a lawsuit in Tokyo. The court ruled that Channel 785 is liable for copyright infringement and issued a court order. Action for damages has begun. The Japanese station is liable with reference to former purchase price, 10 million to 15 million Japanese yen per episode.

Litigations against Japanese TV stations for illegally broadcasting China's TV series exist; this case is just the tip of the iceberg. From the evidence submitted by the Japanese side during discovery, litigation lawyers for the Chinese side found that in 200 TV series broadcast by Channel 785, no letter of authorization could be provided.  Regarding Channel 781, also with SKYperfecTV, most of the 300 TV series broadcast were unauthorized. From 2003 to 2006, Japanese TV stations broadcast 500 unauthorized Chinese TV series. The number could be raised to as many as 9,000 episodes, including Princess Huanzhu (Chinese name: Huan Zhu Ge Ge); Years of Passion (Chinese name: Ji Qing Ran Shao De Sui Yue); Never in Peace (Chinese name: Yong Bu Ming Mu) and My Own Swordsman (Chinese name: Wu Lin Wai Zhuan). These are all prime time TV series in China.

Currently, five companies have participated in this class-action lawsuit, including Beijing Chidong Culture & Media Company and Hangzhou Jinshi Media Corporation. They have commissioned a group of lawyers from the Beijing Xinran Law Firm and the Beijing GMK Intellectual Property Ltd to handle the case. The team is scheduled to arrive in Japan soon for the lawsuit.

Expert view: class-action lawsuit, very likely to win

Professor Zheng Shengli, Secretary-General of the School of Intellectual Property Rights inside Peking University, said that China's TV series rights are often infringed upon. This is because Chinese right holders still lack awareness and do not protect their copyrights. Some right holders are not familiar with legal procedures. They believe that litigation costs in other countries might be too expensive, so they are afraid of seeking legal solutions. If right holders of these infringed TV series did not assert their own due, they also lose the chance to safeguard it. Furthermore, if a class-action lawsuit were initiated, litigation costs might be brought down. Finally, if evidence of unauthorized broadcasting were obtained, chances of winning would be high.

( by Zheng Na, August 20, 2007)

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