Saturday, December 30, 2006

Chinese Web Portal Fined for Movie Piracy

BEIJING, Dec. 29 (AP) — A Beijing court has ordered the popular Chinese Web portal to pay $140,000 in damages for distributing Hollywood movies online without permission, the movie industry’s trade group said Friday.

A subsidiary of must also publish an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, the Motion Picture Association said.

A Sohu spokeswoman, Zhang Xin, said the company was aware of the ruling but had no comment.

China is regarded as the world’s leading source of illegally copied movies, software and other goods, despite repeated government promises to stamp out the underground industry. The Motion Picture Association blames piracy in China for costing studios in the United States $244 million in lost box office revenues last year.

The group says Chinese regulators are encouraging a market for pirated movies by allowing only a few dozen foreign titles a year for theatrical release. It said 5 of the 10 movies cited in its lawsuit against Sohu were not released theatrically in China.

According to the MPA, Sohu distributed "Harry Potter" and the "Prisoner of Azkaban," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "S.W.A.T." and other titles in 2004 and 2005 through a subscription download service on its Web site.

In a statement, the Motion Picture Association said it had 35 other lawsuits pending in Chinese courts charging movie piracy.

The Motion Picture Association, based in Los Angeles, is the international arm of the Motion Picture Association of America.


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