Sohu fined 1m yuan for movie downloads

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 December, 2006, 12:00am

One of China's most popular internet content providers has been ordered to pay a total of more than 1 million yuan to five Hollywood studios for providing unauthorised movie downloads through its site.

The Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court ruled on Wednesday that was guilty of copyright infringement in five separate cases brought by Columbia, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, New Line and Universal City Studios.

The case once again highlights the rampant violations of intellectual property rights on the mainland despite repeated central government announcements that it is committed to protecting them.

The ruling is a huge embarrassment to the Nasdaq-listed company as it gives the impression it is failing to observe internationally accepted business practices.

The Beijing offices of Sohu and Columbia Tristar refused to comment yesterday on the verdict and compensation package.

The Beijing Star News reported that Sohu was found to have provided downloads of more than 10 films including 20th Century Fox's The Day After Tomorrow, Columbia's S.W.A.T. and the third Harry Potter film from Warner Bros.

It is not clear when Sohu started offering the unauthorised downloads or for how long.

Quoting the court ruling, the report said the five companies did not offer reasonable measures to calculate compensation. The court ordered Sohu to pay a total of 1.08 million yuan to the five studios based on several factors such as its estimates of the site's business revenue, the period for which the illegal downloads were available, and the popularity and age of each film.

As a result, 20th Century Fox was awarded 261,000 yuan, Universal City Studios received 251,500 yuan, and lower payouts were ordered for the three other studios.

Sohu was also ordered to issue an immediate apology on its website, but an apology did not appear to have been posted yesterday.