Two Americans joined their two Chinese accomplices in the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court on Monday, accused of selling more than 180,000 bootleg DVDs worth some 7 million yuan (US$840,000) on the Internet.
If convicted, the four defendants could face jail term of up to 15 years.
The State Office of Intellectual Property Rights Protection identified the case as one of the top 10 IPR violations in the country last year.
The Ministry of Public Security's economic crimes bureau indicated that it received a report from the US Embassy in China about the two Americans, based in Shanghai, who were believed to be exporting the pirated DVDs to more than 20 countries, including the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada.
In July 2004, Randolph Guthrie Hobson III, the primary defendant, was arrested. Thousands of bootleg DVDs, receipts for mailing packages and computers were seized from his home, according to evidence presented to the court.
The other three -- Abram Cody Thrush, Wu Dong and Wu Junbiao -- were later arrested and charged with knowingly aiding and abetting Guthrie.
Guthrie allegedly began marketing the bootleg DVDs on eBay and another Russia-based website in October 2002, earning more than 2 million yuan (US$240,000) from the business.
"He ran the business without a license or national license for running audio and video products, was therefore charged with conducting business illegally," the prosecutor said.
Hobson argued that his conduct is not subject to Chinese law.
"One hundred percent of all my DVDs were sold outside China, all the money I got was never paid to any bank in China, and the Russian website was maintained in Russia and owned by a corporation in Panama," he said.
(China Daily January 18, 2005)