China intensifies crackdown on Internet piracy

    BEIJING, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Chinese authorities investigated 1,001 copyright infringement cases during a campaign against online piracy from August to October last year, 60 percent more than the combined number in 2005 and 2006.

    Yan Xiaohong, vice-minister of the National Copyright Administration (NCA), said on Thursday at a press conference that the authorities shut down 339 illegal web sites, confiscated 123 servers and imposed fines of more than 870,000 yuan (about 120,000U.S. dollars) on violators.

    According to Yan, the campaigns were jointly launched by the NCA, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Information Industry.

    "The three campaigns in recent years only served to achieve limited results, by dealing with a limited number of cases in a limited time period," Yan said, admitting that Internet copyright infringement is still "very severe" in the country.

    "Given the severity of current Internet piracy, tougher punishments should be imposed," he said. "We must make violators to realize the costs of copyright infringement are too high for them to continue."

    Under the Regulation on the Protection of the Right to Network Dissemination of Information, those found guilty of violating copyright on the Internet could face a maximum fine of 100,000 yuan. In practice, however, most violators are fined 10,000 to 30,000 yuan, which is an insufficient deterrent.

    The officials at the press conference listed 10 key online piracy cases investigated during the campaign.

    In one case, the Beijing-based Jinhudong Corporation illegally authorized other companies to use more than 1,000 movies, raking in illegal gains in excess of 10 million yuan.

    "The case has exerted a baneful influence at home and abroad," according to Gao Feng, deputy director with the Ministry of PublicSecurity's economic crimes division.

    China now has more than 172 million Internet users who are on line for at least one hour per week on average, second only to theUnited States, according to figures from the China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC).

    With the Internet penetration rate reaching 12.3 percent, nearly 70 million computers in the country are hooked with the Internet.

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