China's 2021 Spring Festival released films still suffer from piracy, but infringing links on the decline: report
Published: Feb 23, 2021 02:04 AM

Photo: VCG

As Chinese mainland continues to make box-office history by grossing 10.72 billion yuan ($1.66 billion) for the month of February as of Monday, pirated copies of seven domestic films that released during the Spring Festival holidays have already begun springing up online. However, the number of infringing links in 2021 has been on the decline thanks to the joint efforts of Chinese authorities. 

According to a Monday data report from China's 12426 Copyright Monitoring Center, as of Thursday, a total of 35,300 links suspected of copyright infringement have been found so far for four recently released films: Detective Chinatown 3, Hi, Mom, Boonie Bears: The Wild Life and The Yin Yang Master. The highest number of infringing links are for Hi, Mom, while Boonie Bears: The Wild Life comes next with 11,072, Detective Chinatown 3 at 9,358 and 3,436 for The Yin Yang Master.

The report shows that the number of suspected pirated links for Spring Festival films is currently lower than Spring Festival 2018 and 2019, but the current number of links is still on the rise.

Wu Guanyong, director of the center, told the Global Times that the number decreased thanks to Chinese authorities' previous copyright warnings issued to online platforms. 

"Each network platform has strengthened the filtering and review of uploaded user content," said Wu. 

On February 9, three copyright and film authorities released a statement outlining the joint action taken to protect film copyrights including a severe crackdown on illegal and criminal acts such as pirated recordings and distribution of pirated films during the Spring Festival holidays. 

According to Wu, monitoring the internet for infringing links is a huge task since there are more than 10,000 small-scale piracy sites overseas and tens of millions of individual social media accounts that distribute links to pirated movies. 

Looking at WeChat, numerous public accounts providing infringing links for films like Hi, Mom and Detective Chinatown 3 can be found. After following an account and clicking a link, users are directed to a website where they can stream the film. 

"Platform review takes time to carry out. Currently, the rate of blocking infringing links on mainstream online platforms has exceeded 95 percent a day," said Wu.

In 2019, eight films released during the Spring Festival holidays, including the blockbuster The Wandering Earth, suffered from piracy. Infringing links for high-definition versions of films reached 38,900, and led to an estimated loss of 787 million yuan ($121.7 million) at the box office, China National Radio reported on Monday.

Due to the "stay-put" policy introduced for the 2021 Spring Festival holidays, people turned to the cinemas for entertainment instead of travel. A total of 160 million tickets were sold during this peak period, an increase of 27.95 million, or 21 percent, over 2019. 

China National Radio reported that some online vendors on one e-commerce platform were offering "8.88 yuan to watch six films released during the 2021 Spring Festival," and were offering "HD and UHDTV, up to 1080P" versions. 

Liang Fei, deputy director-general of the China Written Copyright Society, told the Global Times on Monday that China's criminal law stipulates that anyone who infringes on copyright for the purpose of making profits and earning illegal gains shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of no more than three years or criminal detention along with a fine. If the amount of illegal profit is large enough or causes other particularly serious circumstances, infringers should be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but no more than seven years and a fine.