Subtitle website founder jailed for film piracy
The Shanghai No 3 Intermediate People's Court sentences Liang Yongping, the founder of a website that hosted pirated films, to three years and six months in prison on Nov 22, 2021. [Photo/Shanghai No 3 Intermediate People's Court]
The Shanghai No 3 Intermediate People's Court sentenced Liang Yongping, the founder of a website that hosted pirated films with Chinese subtitles, to three years and six months in prison on Monday for copyright infringement and also fined him 1.5 million yuan ($235,000).
The court also sought to recover illegal gains and confiscate the funds and tools used for his criminal acts.
It said Liang founded two companies and instructed another person, surnamed Wang, to develop the website of Renren Yingshi Subtitle Group, known as YYeTs, and apps for mobile platforms in 2018.
He also instructed another person, surnamed Xie, to have translators produce Chinese subtitles for films and television series acquired from overseas. These shows were then uploaded to the companies' websites and apps for public viewing and downloading without legal authorization or permission for distribution.
The website of YYeTs and related apps had hosted 32,824 videos and garnered 6.83 million members before they were shut down.
The court said Liang earned around 12 million yuan from membership fees, advertisements and the sale of hard drives with pirated copies of films.
Liang was arrested on Jan 6 and confessed.
The court said Liang's actions constituted copyright infringement to a serious degree, but he was given lighter punishment due to his confession and cooperation.
On China's Sina Weibo microblogging platform, the official account of YYeTs said on Monday that it had admitted its guilt and the website and apps would not reopen because copyright issues could not be resolved.
Yao Huanqing, deputy secretary-general of Chinese Intellectual Property Law Research Association, said the group had infringed the copyrights of owners, who were often overseas.
"The case reflected the government's emphasis on protecting intellectual property for foreign entities in China and creating a level and fair business environment for all," he said. "It has fulfilled its obligation as a responsible member of the World Trade Organization."
The protection of intellectual property will encourage more new creations and society should promote the spread of intellectual creations through lawful and proper means, he added.
Zheng Jian, a lawyer with Shanghai Yujun Law Firm who specializes in IP protection, said he agreed with the court's verdict as the sharing of unauthorized films online for profit is illegal, and could be compared to the selling of pirated DVDs in the early 2000s.
"The environment for IP protection in China has improved a lot in the past decade," he said. "The verdict sent yet another warning to people that regardless of the forms of distribution, piracy will always be punished here."