A court ordered a Beijing company on Wednesday to pay 195,000 yuan ($25,000) in damages to six U.S. movie studios for selling pirated DVDs, a court official said, in the latest in a string of lawsuits over Chinese film piracy.
The ruling was the second this week by a Beijing court in a product piracy case and comes amid U.S. pressure to stamp out widespread copying of movies and other goods. Washington filed a World Trade Organization complaint this month accusing Beijing of violating its trade pledges by failing to stop the illicit industry.
The Motion Picture Association sued the Beijing Cherry Blossom Star Culture Co. on behalf of the studios after investigators bought 13 pirated movies at a shop owned by the company in 2005. They included "Before Sunset," "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and "I, Robot."
The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court ordered the company to pay 15,000 yuan ($1,900) for each of the 13 movies, said Niu Cheng, an official of the court's General Office.
The studios represented in the lawsuit were Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., Sony Corp.'s Columbia Pictures, Universal City Studios LLP, Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox and The Walt Disney Co.
The ruling is the MPA's fourth court victory against Chinese sellers of pirated DVDs in the past six months. The group won lawsuits in March against a shop in Beijing and in December against shops in Shanghai and Beijing that sold pirated DVDs.
"The courts have been extremely supportive," said Roberto De Vido, an MPA spokesman. "The evidence is quite clear in terms of copyright infringement and the courts are sharing that view."
China is one of the world's leading producers of unlicensed copies of goods ranging from movies and designer clothes to sporting goods and medications. The government has launched repeated crackdowns, but pirated DVDs are widely available.
The MPA says 93 percent of DVDs sold in China are unlicensed copies, but De Vido said the group sues only offenders who continue to sell after being raided several times by police.
The MPA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups say that despite stricter Chinese enforcement, product piracy is growing amid China's booming economic expansion.
The MPA also has said Beijing is creating demand for pirated movies by restricting imports.
To protect its own filmmakers, Beijing limited imports last year to 50 titles for theatrical release, including those from Hong Kong, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.
Beijing reacted angrily after the United States filed a WTO complaint this month accusing China of violating its trade commitments by failing to stamp out product piracy.
A senior official, Vice Premier Wu Yi, complained Tuesday that Washington was ignoring China's stepped-up enforcement and said Beijing will fight the complaint "to the last minute."
On Monday, a Beijing court ruled that Yahoo Inc.'s China arm aided online music piracy in a lawsuit brought by a trade group representing 11 recording companies.
Yahoo China was ordered to pay 210,000 yuan ($27,000) in damages because its search engine linked to Web sites that carried unlicensed copies of 229 songs.