Pirates weave tangled web on 'Spidey'

BEIJING -- Chinese looking for a copy of "Spider-Man 3" on the streets of Beijing are meeting with more than a little frustration these days. Determined to cash in on the hype surrounding the summer blockbuster, counterfeiters have begun releasing copies of different films in "Spider-Man" sleeves, among them an obscure Dan Aykroyd telefilm.

Earlier in the week, Sony Pictures Entertainment said that DVDs here purporting to be pirated copies of "Spider-Man 3" were, in fact, copies of "Spider-Man 2."

On Thursday, street vendors were selling discs marked with "Spider-Man 3" packaging, featuring a picture of the hero crouching in a black spider suit, and crediting stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in Chinese.

A copy bought for 10 yuan -- a little more than $1 -- came with the vendor's caveat that it was "not good quality."

When played in a DVD player, the screen showed 2001 telefilm "Earth vs. The Spider," starring Aykroyd as a detective investigating the case of a spider-like killer.

A copy obtained Tuesday, with similar packaging and an anti-piracy warning on the back, would not play in a DVD player.

Sony said in a statement that it had found no evidence of "Spider-Man 3" DVDs on the streets in China or on the Internet, underscoring Hollywood's determination to fight Chinese counterfeiters, which they say costs them billions every year.

DVD shop vendors said it was still "too early" to obtain the fakes. The movie had its world premiere in Tokyo earlier this month, but will not be released in U.S. theaters until May 4.

"Wait a few days," said a worker at a DVD shop in Beijing's Sanlitun embassy district, who declined to give her name.

"I'll have a good-quality copy for you then," she said, before recommending a pirated copy of Martin Scorsese's "The Departed."

Xinhua news agency said a pirate DVD production and sales ring had been found at a factory in the eastern province of Jiangxi. The pirates had passed the facility off as a bird flu research firm in a bid to keep local residents away.

China has hit back at U.S. complaints to the World Trade Organization that it is not doing enough to tackle piracy, and has conducted stage-managed events in recent weeks in which police have crushed millions of DVD, music and software fakes.

Several DVD vendors said they had noted a crackdown.

"Business has been slow recently," one shop assistant said. "There have been too many checks. ... Maybe there will only be legitimate copies soon."

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