Translated by Andrew Vanburen from a Chinese-language piece in Sinafinance
MAJOR MAINLAND MOVIE MAKER Huayi Bros (SZA: 300027) is taking legal action after saying knockoff copies and unauthorized online viewing of its films is costing the PRC-listed firm dearly, with one blockbuster in particular a favorite target of bootleggers.
Painted Skin: The Resurrection is the latest production from Huayi Bros, reuniting most of the ensemble cast from the original 2008 film of the same name.
Directed by Wuershan and starring Chen Kun, Zhao Wei, Zhou Xun, Yang Mi, Feng Shaofeng, Fei Xiang and Chen Tingjia, the feature film tells of a centuries old fox spirit who travels far and wide to become human, but is doomed to take on the appearance of a disfigured princess who herself is courting a heroic guard.
According to a spell cast on the fox/princess, if the spirit can woo a man into loving her without coercion, the apparition can break the curse and live as a mortal human on earth.
Sound a bit fantastic?
Apparently China’s legions of online film bootleggers and bogus DVD manufacturers thought so, as their illegal and unethical pirating of the summer blockbuster have cost Huayi Bros some 660 million yuan, and counting...
Recently, the iconic movie and television series production studio filed a lawsuit with Beijing’s Haidian District Court naming Beijing Tengdu Internet Co and Ma-an Shan Greater China Era Cinemas as defendants in the intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement case.
The case marks the first such litigation by a movie producer directly charging a theater with IPR violations.
If it gets anywhere in the court system, industry watchers say it could represent the “tip of the spear” in a full assault on the rampant and out-of-control film bootleggers rampant throughout the industry.
Painted Skin: The Resurrection (aka: Painted Skin: II) has been a huge summer hit for Shenzhen-listed Huayi Bros, raking in over 700 million yuan at the box office so far.
Perhaps it was the brazenness of the alleged offense which prompted Huayi Bros to seek a legal remedy.
After all, it’s much easier to file a complaint against a brick-and-mortar movie theater illegally screening your film than it is to track down a virtual DVD or streaming-online bootlegger on the Internet.
Huayi also accuses the cinema of doing nothing to prevent moviegoers with handheld cameras from "secretly" recording the film to be later uploaded online for free viewing.
Whether or not this legal action gets any further will be an interesting testimony as to how seriously the government wants to clamp down on IPR infringements and whether it takes seriously the rights of investors in listed “cultural enterprises” or whether the complaints will once again fall on deaf ears.
The ruling has wider implications because Huayi recently signed a deal to show seven additional films using the US-based IMAX format.
Huayi Bros investors and those who appreciate a viable and creative movie industry in China able to make an honest profit for their innovation are all keeping their fingers crossed.
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