The Hollywood studios scored a piracy victory in China on Monday when the Shenzhen Nanshan District People’s Court found Shenzhen Xunlei Networking Technologies Co, a large online content and service provider, liable for copyright infringement. The decision stems from civil actions launched back in 2015 by the MPAA member companies. Xunlei was judged to have infringed copyright by providing 28 studio titles to the public on two of its websites without authorization.
The Shenzhen court awarded damages and legal costs to the studios totaling just over $234K. While that’s not a huge sum, the decision is significant as it comes as China, traditionally a hotbed of piracy, has increasingly clamped down on the practice from the inside. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that about 87,000 copyright-related cases were filed in the Middle Kingdom in 2016, based on data compiled by the Supreme People’s Court. That reps a 15x hike over 10 years.
As local online players move into content creation and acquisition, they too are more concerned about infringement. Baidu’s iQiyi, which has deals with the studios and Netflix, filed at least 133 copyright cases in 2016, up from 80 in 2015, for example, according to the Journal. “Copyright is no longer something imposed on China by the U.S. It is now a tool in Chinese hands,” Mathew Alderson, of Beijing-based Harris Bricken, told the paper in May.
Today, the MPA’s Mike Ellis, who is President and Managing Director Asia Pacific, said, “We are heartened that the Court in Shenzhen has found in favor of strong copyright. The legitimate Chinese film and television industry has worked hard to provide audiences with a wide range of legal options for their audio-visual entertainment — a marketplace that has flourished because of the rights afforded to copyright owners under the law. We will continue to work with our local partners in China to help promote and protect the legitimate marketplace for films and television content.”