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Monday, November 24, 2014, 09:31

Web firms' video and subtitle sites closed in IPR crackdown

By Sun Xiaochen

The closure of two popular subtitle and video sharing websites reflects a hardening of attitudes toward copyright violation, but more proactive measures are needed, experts say.

Fans of foreign TV series who visited and for free downloads and translated Chinese subtitles found the sites were shut on Saturday. Both carried statements about the closure on their home pages.

"Our website is cleaning up (pirated) content," said the statement. "Thanks for users' attention and support. Since (being) established by a group of overseas students in 2004, we have ... offered subtitle translation for popular foreign TV series, only hoping to help Chinese viewers."

The statement, drafted by founder Shen Sheng, said the website was launched to enhance understanding of different cultures.

Both sites claim to be nonprofit operations. However, they have violated the rights of the producers of the shows, said intellectual property experts, and their closure highlights the growing awareness of copyright protection in China's online video market.

"The closure of two major subtitle download sites shows that the country's scrutiny of online copyright violation has become more sophisticated than ever amid the overwhelming demand for tougher controls and stronger penalties from overseas rights holders," said Tao Xinliang, director of Shanghai University's IPR College.

Wang Qian, a copyright law researcher at East China University, said, "The unauthorized supply of copyright videos is a violation, while spreading privately translated subtitles is also illegal.

"Rights over screenplays, dialogue and foreign-language subtitles are all exclusively held by the producers and authorized distributors," Wang said. "Providing unofficial subtitles and matching them to pirated videos is definitely an infringement." provided free download links to hit US dramas, and in October it was named as one of the most notorious online offenders by the Motion Picture Association of America.

The National Copyright Administration, in an effort to improve China's image as an active protector of intellectual property rights, launched a campaign against online piracy in 2005. The annual initiative, known as the Jianwang Operation, has reshaped the online copyright landscape.

The 2013 campaign saw the copyright watchdog order 20 major video website operators to produce documents establishing their right to handle 2,374 films and TV programs. The documents passed the checks in 63 percent of the cases, compared with only 34 percent in 2012 and 23 percent in 2011.

QVOD, a video sharing site based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, was fined 260 million yuan ($42.5 million) for copyright violations in June.

Duan Yuping, deputy inspector of NCA's copyright management department, said, "We still have to be alert for more covert infringements. We should update the laws."

Tao of Shanghai University said, "More detailed rules on defining online service providers' obligations to examine uploaded content and protect copyright should be specified."

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