China has detained or sentenced nearly 30 members of pirating rings in recent months after seizing hundreds of thousands of audiovisual discs, some containing pornography, a government censorship agency said late Tuesday.
The crackdown appeared aimed at eradicating porn more than copyright infringement, though pirated DVDs, software and books are sold at many stalls and street corners around China. It follows a government campaign against online pornography launched in January that has seen dozens of arrests and over 2,000 Web sites closed.
Thirteen people from two of the pirating rings have been sentenced this year on charges of copyright violations or selling obscene materials, according to a statement on the Web site of China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP).
The people were given prison terms of up to seven years and fined as much as 105,000 yuan (US$15,400) each, the GAPP said. Over a dozen suspects from a separate pirating ring in southern China were detained last month, the statement said.
Fewer than 10,000 of the nearly 380,000 pirated materials were pornographic, the statement said. The "audiovisual discs" could be either DVDs or VCDs, which are still widely sold in small shops in China.
But in another statement on the crackdown, GAPP suggested the agency's goal was to target porn rather than intellectual property violations.
The agency urged following through on such cases to deter the spread of porn in China.
Countries such as the U.S. and U.K., as well as trade groups including the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), have pressured China to cut down on the spread of pirated materials.