China’s hit anti-corruption TV drama In the Name of People (人民的名义 in Chinese) was recently leaked online ahead of its licensed release, throwing into the spotlight the country’s copyright protection woes.

The 55-episode anti-graft TV drama, adapted from a namesake novel by Chinese writer Zhou Meisen, have earned both good ratings and rave reviews nationwide since it premiered on Hunan Satellite TV in late March. Meanwhile, it is also available on online TV provider PPTV, a media division of the country’s Suning retail group.

The sensational TV drama, touted by Chinese media as “the country’s most daring TV series about anti-graft efforts“, has quickly fallen prey to online piracy.

The full series, however, was leaked online in mid-April when the hit TV drama was less than halfway aired via licensed channels. People can pay as little as RMB 8.8 to view the full series through WeChat, Weibo (微博 in Chinese; Twitter-like social media platform) and Baidu Cloud (百度云 in Chinese; Baidu’s cloud storage service). In contrast, a PPTV membership that includes the series is RMB 15 for one month or RMB 108 for 6 months.

The leaked episodes were said to be the sample version submitted for approval to country’s top media watchdog, but the origin of the leak has not been identified.

It is estimated the piracy may cause an aggregate loss of over RMB 500 million to PPTV, Hunan Satellite TV and other parties involved (in Chinese).

PPTV vice president Chen Xuhua condemned the piracy and called on authorities to attach importance to intellectual property protection. Chen said that Weibo and Baidu Cloud should take their social responsibility and vowed to hunt the culprits until they are caught.

Behind this piracy case lurk well-trained film and TV series “agents” who provide pirated content to social media users. According to reports, these groups use WeChat to conduct regular trainings where veteran agents will teach rookies stuff like how to circulate video on Weibo, pitch potential customers and grow one’s downline. Structured much like a pyramid scheme, new agents are invited into WeChat groups where they pay the referree and group owner via hongbao.

The National Copyright Administration (NAC) is looking into the matter, and has been taking measures to stamp out the piracy, said Yu Cike, director of NAC’s copyright management department, at a press conference held by the State Council yesterday (in Chinese).

Sheila Yu is a Shanghai-based technology writer. She brings readers the biggest news from Chinese language tech media. Reach her at

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