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Hot `Lion King' Videos And Other Knockoffs Eyed By Chinese to Appease US

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JUST a day after China called for a nationwide boycott of pirated goods to salve American anger over copyright theft, the software sellers on Beijing's so-called Electronics Street were doing brisk business.

The United States estimates that more than 90 percent of the software sold at this northwest Beijing computer hub and other centers in China is illicit. Add in illegal copies of compact discs like the Rolling Stones' ``Voodoo Lounge'' and Eric Clapton's ``Unplugged,'' and pirated videos such as ``The Lion King,'' and US manufacturers lose $1 billion in royalties yearly, US trade officials say.

On Thursday, China's software pirates, the bane of US trade negotiators pushing for tougher enforcement of Chinese copyright law, were still operating openly and offering to illegally copy WordPerfect, Windows, and other $200 programs for as little as $12 each.

But some wariness had crept in as police scrutiny increased. ``Now, this is quite dangerous. This is illegal, and we won't do this now,'' says Chen Yu, an engineer with Beijing Superior Technology Development Company.

``Now, nobody dares to sell pirated software openly,'' another vendor says. ``Now, is a special time, and you have to go underground to get it.''

While vehemently defending its record for copyright protection, Beijing is intensifying its public relations blitz to soften a tough US stand against widespread piracy and avert a looming trade confrontation with Washington.

Last weekend, US and Chinese officials traded retaliatory threats and then backed off for a 30-day negotiation period before sanctions would take effect after Feb. 4. Talks, broken off when US negotiators walked out in mid-December, are expected to resume this month.

On Thursday, Beijing trade officials stepped up their two-pronged campaign by urging Chinese companies accused of unfairly selling goods at below-cost prices to cooperate in resolving their cases. But they also suggested that anti-dumping laws were being used as a pretext to exclude Chinese exports from overseas markets.

Also this week, authorities launched a new series of raids against three porcelain plants using stolen technology, closed a Beijing bookstore stocked with thousands of pirated copies of Hong Kong-published books, established a 24-hour hotline in Shanghai for reports on pirated goods, and pledged to tighten and update China's three-year-old copyright law.

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