In a case that marks a win for Hollywood studios and online intellectual property, a Beijing court has ordered Chinese portal Sohu.com to pay nearly $139,000 for illegally distributing U.S.-produced movies.
The Motion Picture Association (MPA), which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Hollywood, claimed that the Sohu-owned Internet Information Service Co. had posted several movies online, including “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” and “Dawn of the Dead” between 2004 and 2005. The Sohu subsidiary offers more than 100 movies for download on a subscription basis.
Asia in general is a hotbed for pirated media. The MPA’s Asian division investigated more than 34,000 cases of bootlegging and Internet piracy in 2005 and claims that Chinese piracy cost the movie industry $244 million in box office receipts. Earlier this month the MPA, along with several other western trade organizations, signed an agreement with the National Copyright Administration of China to protect video, software and printed materiel from being pirated over the Internet.
According to the ruling by the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court, the Sohu subsidiary must also post an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
In a report from the Associated Press, the MPA blames Chinese administrators for encouraging piracy by permitting only a handful of foreign films to be released theatrically, as half of the films cited in the lawsuit had not reached Chinese theaters. According to the Wall Street Journal, the MPA has won all of its lawsuits because government censorship prevents many of the films from being sold in China in the first place.