- Taiwan-based director Tsai Ming-liang asked that download website Laiyinwang remove copies of his films.
- The website went down on Tuesday, a month after Tsai complained to officials in China.
- Film piracy remains a serious issue despite the expansion of China’s cinema market.
Tsai Ming-liang, one of Taiwan’s best-known filmmakers, struck a blow against piracy in the world’s second-largest film market on Tuesday, forcing the takedown of a file sharing website after complaining about the site on Chinese social media.
Lanyinwang.com (蓝影网) unexpectedly ceased operations on Tuesday, a month after the director publicly crossed swords with the website on Chinese microblogging site Weibo.
In July the director took to Weibo to demand the website remove his films as well as take down Weibo posts advertising their availability. In response, the website agreed to remove the material but refused to take down the Weibo posts.
Many films made in Taiwan do not screen on the Chinese mainland, deemed too politically or socially sensitive, or not having sufficient commercial appeal.
Tsai, originally from Malaysia, denounced the website in an open letter published to Weibo and said he had filed a complaint to the country’s copyright office, the National Copyright Administration (NCAC).
On Tuesday the website was offline, its service replaced with a cryptic notice protesting the takedown. “Justice can be insufferably arrogant,” reads the notice. “The right to speech can be distorted.”
Despite having a strictly-controlled internet, piracy remains rampant in China. Illegal copies of films, both foreign and local, have long been available for streaming and downloading along with in DVD form in open markets and some shopping malls.
There are signs that officials are taking the issue more seriously. In March, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang said the country would make fighting online piracy and the sale of fake goods to emerging markets a key priority this year, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Wang said 1.1 million piracy cases had been handled since China’s new leadership took over in 2013, with 59,000 cases prosecuted and 78,000 violators sentenced.
Lanyingwang’s Weibo account, which is set up to automatically post when new films are made available on its website, has posted about the availability of Tsai’s films including Rebels of the Neon God (青少年哪吒), Stray Dogs (郊游), and Journey to the West (西游) — none of which have screened in China.
Speaking to local media, Tsai was uncompromising in his attitude towards the piracy of his work. “What should you do when you want to watch a movie but it’s not out yet?” the director asked. “You wait!”
“Wait for the environment to change. Wait until you get the chance to see the movie while you’re overseas. Wait until you earn the money to go and see it in a museum in Paris,” he reportedly said. “It’s not easy, but it’s planting a seed for the future.”
However many film fans users pointed out that not everyone has the means or opportunity to travel to Europe to see films that don’t have any possibility of being shown legally in mainland China.
‘Director Tsai should realise that his films haven’t been released on the Chinese mainland” Weibo user Dreamer_SL wrote. ‘How are we supposed to see them if not by downloading them [illegally]? Fly to Venice? That’s totally unreasonable.”
Not all directors share Tsai’s unyielding attitude towards piracy. In January, Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino told Australian media he has no problem with Chinese filmgoers watching pirated versions of his movies after censors radically altered his film Django Unchained for local release in April 2013.