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    A Hit TV Crime Series Is Facing an Off-Screen Offense — Piracy

    Episodes from “Crime Crackdown” released in advance for premium subscribers were found circulating on various social media platforms.

    Producers of the latest Chinese hit series have been busy cracking down on crime on and off-screen.

    Tencent Penguin Pictures has been overwhelmed by piracy concerns after snippets from “Crime Crackdown” flooded social media sites, including Douyin. The 28-episode series, based on the real-life story of police officers busting organized crime networks, was simultaneously released on leading streaming platform Tencent Video and multiple domestic TV channels on August 9.

    “Pirated versions have not only interrupted the planned release of ‘Crime Crackdown’ episodes but also infringed the rights of the producers and distributors, as well as the audience,” Tencent Penguin Pictures, an offshoot of Tencent Video, said in a statement Saturday. “(Its unauthorized online release) is suspected of constituting a criminal offense.”

    Starring popular actors Sun Honglei and Lay Zhang, “Crime Crackdown” has drawn positive reviews since its release, becoming the “hottest” television show based on online discussion as of Sunday, according to entertainment data intelligence site DataWin. As of Monday, the series had garnered nearly 2 billion views on Tencent Video.

    In recent weeks, clips from episodes that had not received wide release were found circulating on social platforms such as Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, and microblogging site Weibo. Tencent Video releases four episodes in advance for its premium subscribers every week before they are aired on TV or screened online.

    On Saturday, in a now-deleted Weibo post, Douyin said it had taken down some 8,000 such videos.

    Though illegal, authorities haven’t been able to efficiently curb instances of piracy, with domestic and international shows often found online. A new provision in the country’s recently amended copyright law, which went into effect in June, also bars individuals from “digitizing” works of others without authorization.

    On Wednesday, Tencent Video filed a case against Douyin at the Beijing Intellectual Property Court for not effectively deleting, filtering, and banning videos that have infringed the show’s copyrights. Tencent demanded the short video platform pay 100 million yuan ($15.4 million) in compensation.

    Even before the current lawsuit, Tencent and Douyin’s parent company ByteDance have had a history of legal spats. Both companies have sued each other multiple times over issues ranging from unfair competition to defamation.

    Both Tencent and ByteDance didn’t immediately respond to Sixth Tone’s request to comment.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone)