A 30-year-old Chinese man received a suspended sentence of three years in jail and fined 10,000 yuan for copyright infringement in Jiangyin, Jiangsu province on Wednesday.
According to the Jiangyin People’s Court, Zhang graduated from an elite Chinese University with a degree in international economic law. However, instead of pursuing a legal career, Zhang, an enthusiastic movie fan, devoted himself to translating non-mainstream art films and selling them online. Zhang even learned English, French, Japanese, German, Russian and Korean to help him in his work.
Jiangsu newspaper Yangtse Evening Post reported that over the past seven years Zhang had translated dialogue in more that 400 movies. He added Chinese subtitles and burned the films onto DVDs to sell online for 2.9 yuan (HK$3.6) each. In April, the police found 3,600 DVDs in his home.
“Many foreign art films people now watch in China are translated by me,” Zhang told Yangtse Evening Post. “My goal is not to make money. I want to achieve that perfect stage [to produce Chinese versions of foreign art films].”
Zhang claims he was motivated by a market need that he discovered in discussions on online forums. While many people expressed a desire to watch foreign art movies it was a niche not supported by the mainstream market in China.
In China, awareness of copyright protection has slowly been building over the past 20 years. The internet has always been a source of free movies. Many “subtitle teams” have been formed online to translate foreign movies and TV shows, which are then made available with Chinese subtitles shortly after the original release date.
Zhang works alone and has always been aware that his actions violated the law, but he didn’t treat the copyright regulations seriously.
“We feel sorry for him. It’s a pity. He is so young and so talented, he could have a bright future,” said Wang Xiaodan, a member of staff at the Jiangyin People’s Court.
According to the judge, if Zhang does not violate any laws during his probation period he will not have to serve a jail sentence.