Chinese police said on Tuesday they have arrested 14 people who ran video portal YYeTs.com, which pirated foreign movies and television shows like "Friends", triggering an outcry on social media from people lamenting the loss of the programmes.
Police in the financial hub of Shanghai said they arrested the people on charges of intellectual property infringement, adding that the website hosted more than 20,000 pieces of pirated content and had more than 8 million registered users.
The suspects made more than 16 million yuan over an unspecified period from member fees and advertisement revenue generated by the website, police said on their official WeChat account.
YYeTs.com did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The topic "YYeTs.com investigated for pirated videos" quickly became a top trending topic on the Weibo social media platform with users complaining they had lost a go-to platform for U.S. shows such as "Friends" and "Big Bang Theory".
China heavily regulates its cyberspace and foreign television shows and movies have to go through an often lengthy approval process.
China's Netflix equivalents such as iQiyi or Tencent Holdings' video platform offer a limited range of foreign shows.
China has also vowed to strengthen intellectual property rights enforcement, amid complaints from other governments that it has not been doing enough to stop copying.
"Everybody wants to watch legal copies of television works and films, but the problem is, all legal channels have been blocked or censored," said one Weibo user.
"If the aim is to combat piracy, then please give us the platform to watch legally introduced versions."