Buying pirated DVDs in Shanghai

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Buying pirated DVDs in Shanghai

Postby long_way » Sun Mar 22, 2009 4:53 pm

In Shanghai, like in most major Chinese cities, pirated DVDs are sold practically at every corner. Everyone (foreign tourists) who ever walked along Nanjing Rd in Shanghai must have been approached by at least three of the countless hawkers trying to sell pirated DVDs and brand name knock-offs like "Rolex" watches, "Italian" handbags etc... They usually show you a laminated "catalogue" with all those items listed on it. If you show interest they will take you to the "stock room" usually hidden in the house in one of the small streets just off Nanjing Rd. There they have thousands of pirated DVDs and other stuff too... It is not very likely you will get robbed however the places I saw were pretty claustrophobic.

So, before I continue let me state the obvious: selling and buying pirated goods is bad, m' kay? Smuggling pirated DVDs into your own country is bad, m' kay? All these are illegal activities and illegal acts should not be committed or encouraged....

If however, you still decide to buy a couple of Hollywood blockbusters with Chinese subtitles here is some advice:

1) keep in mind that some (if not most) DVD players in North America or Europe won't be able to read those Chinese DVDs; for example if you live in North America and you have Sony DVD Player it will play only DVDs with country code that corresponds to the region where it was sold (North America). You will have to buy DVD player which can read DVDs with different country codes (for that reason I had to buy Nontaus DVD player although I had never heard of that brand name, but it plays practically any video format),

2) The quality of those DVDs can vary considerably; while some are as good as original DVDs others can be impossible to watch; the sound can be terrible picture distorted; most have English subtitles but some subtitles are total nonsense and you would be much better off without reading anything rather than reading that random array of English words. One James Bond movie I watched was dubbed into Russian with Chinese subtitles... Frequently the picture freeze towards the end of the movie, which is very frustrating...

3) Most pirated DVDs are sold in nice plastic covers and DVD is inside in the hard paper sleeve. Most of them are new (have not been played previously) however some of them may be copies that someone already used, full of scratches. You can open the cover without damaging it, at the back-bottom part of the cover there is a small folding part that is glued over the bottom of the plastic cover, you can open it and check the DVD if you wish.

4) The price. As a foreigner you will get “special” treatment whenever you try to buy something in China, including DVDs. Normal “Chinese” price of goods will be multiplied by at least 2 or 3 in most cases. You should not pay more than 5-6 RMB (approx $1) for one DVD. If you decide to buy some pirated DVDs try not to buy them on Nanjing Rd; take subway away from the centre practically in any direction and you will find street vendors selling DVDs openly on the street and the price will be at least 1/2 of what you would pay on Nanjing Rd; in 2008 one could buy a DVD for 5RMB (approximately 75 cents) in Pudong area (half an hour ride from Nanjing Rd) whereas the same DVD would be sold for 10RMB on Nanjing Rd (they may ask even more than 10 RMB if you have a sucker face). Chinese people who are much better at bargaining would pay 4RMB for the same DVD. It is still puzzling to me how anyone can burn a DVD, put it in a nice cover and sell it for 5RMB and make profit at the same time...

5) Chances are buying a couple of pirated DVDs and taking them back home won't get you into trouble when you clear customs, however if you decide to buy hundreds of them you better think of a good excuse if/when you get caught.
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