Does China discriminate against foreign copyrights?

August 2007

Record labels, film & TV

The United States is seeking urgent consultations with China over China’s rules on music downloading and cinema rights that The US say discriminate against foreign sound recordings and films. Hollywood studios and U.S. Internet music providers such as Apple Inc.’s iTunes store could be among the groups that suffer from “less favorable distribution opportunities” for imported films and foreign suppliers of music recordings in China, which the U.S. cited in a World Trade Organization request in July. The main issue is that music from foreign sources needs to undergo content review before being distributed in China. Chinese music doesn’t have to face that process and it is suggested that these reviews delay Chinese Internet providers and Chinese consumers from accessing foreign music. The same discrimination exists when Chinese consumers seek to download music onto mobile phones the US allege. The problem for American music providers is compounded by rules that prevent foreign companies from owning or investing in businesses that distribute music over the Internet. We are not quite sure about this one at Music Law Updates – whilst seen in the strict headlights of competition law that screening of foreign music may seem unfair, it seems a tad hypocritical of the US to take an anti-censorial / anti-regulatory role (Nipplegate anyone?) and why shouldn’t China or indeed any nation have at least some regard to matters other than business – and examine what may be seen as immoral, inappropriate or offensive lyrics or content in films – at least to the Chinese people. Certainly in Europe, cultural issues now being raised against the ‘pan-Europe’ open market philosophy so loved by the EC and more and more countries now feel it is important to take a stand against a homogenized ‘European’ culture – despite competition law!

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