A film production company began legal action at court yesterday against an Internet site it claimed had illegally broadcast one of its movies.
Soon after the kung fu movie Seven Swords was officially released in the Chinese mainland in July 2005, more than 100 websites were found to be providing it for online viewing or downloading, either for free or at a certain charge.
"None of them were authorized," said Zhuang Jianbing, the lawyer representing the movie's sole copyright owner Beijing Ciwen Film Production Co Ltd.
The firm has collected screenshots of more than 100 websites that had been or are still using the movie.
The servers have been found throughout the country, from Tibet Autonomous Region in the west to Hainan Province in the south.
Ciwen Film Production has launched legal proceedings against 20 of them, and one of them was heard yesterday at Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People's Court.
It is asking the respondent, Shanghai Viewtoo Broadband Technology Co Ltd, to stop immediately the alleged violation, make a public apology and compensate it to the tune of at least 300,000 yuan (US$37,000).
The company showed the court evidence proving their ownership of the copyright, and screenshots of the website pages taken in October.
However, Viewtoo claimed it had a contract with Ciwen Film Production, which gave it the right to use any of its works for two years from the end of 2004.
"This film fell in that period," said Yu Jianguo, the lawyer representing Viewtoo.
Wang Zhenghan, a Viewtoo employee, admitted the website began using the movie, under the contract, but stopped 55 days later when Ciwen Film Production challenged it.
Viewtoo made only 500 yuan (US$62) from offering the movie on the site, according to Wang.
"Even if we were proved guilty, the compensation should be calculated based on the 500 yuan," he said.
But Zhuang said the appendix of the contract Yu showed the court, which was said to give Viewtoo unlimited access to its products, was a fake.
"We did sign contracts with Viewtoo in 2004," he said.
"But we clearly listed the name of all the 15 movies we authorized in it, and Seven Swords was not in it."
A verdict was not reached after two hours of the hearing, but one of the three judges asked the two parties to consider mediation again.
(China Daily March 9, 2006)