Copyright watchdog seeks stiffer penalties to rein in Net violators

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am

The mainland's copyright watchdog is pressing for harsher penalties for copyright infringement in an attempt to rein in rampant violation of the law on the internet, including unauthorised distribution of popular Hong Kong TV dramas.

The deputy director of the National Copyright Administration, Yan Xiaohong, said yesterday harsher punishment within the framework of the law should be used at a time when online piracy was serious and widespread. 'We must match fines to the severity of copyright infringement to make offenders realise they can no longer engage in such activities.'

He did not provide further details.

Mainland authorities have been criticised for a poor record in copyright protection and for leniency against unauthorised distribution of films and TV dramas, both in disc form and over the internet.

Offenders have rarely faced criminal prosecutions, and a mainland provision for online copyright protection caps the fines at 100,000 yuan.

The webmaster of a Shandong-based online cinema was fined just 30,000 yuan in August for providing unauthorised downloads of at least 10 popular TV dramas, including Hong Kong-produced The Family Link and The Green Grass of Home.

Another webmaster, Qie Huilai, was given a two-year suspended sentence in July for unauthorised distribution of a popular online game, Legend 2, and fined 100,000 yuan.

He had amassed an estimated 500,000 yuan in profits from his illegal operation.

Officials have closed 339 unlicensed internet sites for online copyright infringements during a nationwide crackdown since August 1.

They uncovered 1,001 cases of copyright violations, an increase of 60 per cent from the combined cases for 2006 and 2005.

However, Mr Yan said achievements so far were limited and there had not been a drastic change in internet culture on the mainland, as violations of copyright over the Net were still very grave.

Gao Feng , deputy director of the Economic Crime Investigation Bureau, said his agency faced many challenges in dealing with web-based crimes as the internet went beyond national borders.