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China: Control over Foreign Movies and TV Shows on Online Video Sites Tightened

(Sept. 22, 2014) China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) recently issued a circular on strengthening control over foreign movies and TV shows on online Chinese video sites, according to a summary of the circular published on the media regulator’s official website on September 5, 2014. (Guojia Xinwen Chuban Guangdian Zongju Chongshen Wangshang Jingwai Yingshi Ju Guanli de Youguan Guiding [The SAPPRFT Reaffirms Relevant Provisions on Online Streaming of Foreign Movies and TV Shows] (Circular Summary), SAPPRFT website (Sept. 5, 2014).) Under the circular, video sites must, by April 1, 2015, obtain a Movie Public Projection License or TV Series Distribution License from the provincial- or central-level media authorities for each foreign movie or TV show to be streamed on their websites. (Id.; Cui Xi, Guangdian Zongju: Jingwai Ju Bili Buchao 30%, Wu Xuke Bude Bofang [SAPPRFT: Foreign Movies and TV Shows Not to Exceed 30%, Cannot Be Broadcast Without a License], SINA TECHNOLOGY (Sept. 5, 2014).)

Furthermore, only video sites that have obtained from the SAPPRFT a License for Audio-Video Programs Transmitted Through an Information Network containing specific permission to broadcast movies and TV shows may present such programs on Chinese information networks. By March 31, 2015, all foreign movies and TV shows to be streamed on video sites must be registered with the media authorities; any unregistered content must be removed from the websites by April 1, 2015. (Id.)

The circular also requires that the foreign material on the video sites be “healthy in content” and in compliance with a 2004 SAPPRFT order on introducing and broadcasting foreign TV programs. In addition, the relevant intellectual property rights must be obtained from the copyright owners. (Circular Summary, supra.)

According to the 2004 order, foreign TV programs to be introduced in China must not contain unhealthy content, such as content that may jeopardize national unity, sovereignty, or the territorial integrity of the State; disclose State secrets, endanger national security, or damage the honor and interests of the State; incite ethnic hatred or discrimination, destroy inter-ethnic unity, or harm the customs or habits of the ethnic groups; disturb social order or social stability; propagate obscenity, gambling, or violence, or incite crimes; or jeopardize social morality or good cultural traditions. (Jingwai Yingshi Jiemu Yinjin, Bochu Guanli Guiding [Provisions on Administration of Importation and Broadcasting of Overseas TV Programs], SAPPRFT Order [2004] No. 42 (promulgated Sept. 23, 2004, effective Oct. 23, 2004), Westlaw China online subscription database.)

According to other media reports on the 2014 SAPPRFT circular, it also prohibits foreign movies and TV shows that are provided for streaming on any video site from exceeding 30% of the total number of domestic movies and TV shows the video site bought and broadcasted in the previous year. (Xi, supra.)

Previously. in April 2014, the SAPPRFT reportedly ordered four U.S. television shows, “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Practice,” “The Good Wife,” and “NCIS” to be removed from Chinese video sites, without giving specific reasons. (Paul Carsten, China Takes Steps to Curb Foreign Content on Video Sites, REUTERS (Sept. 5, 2014).)