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China: First Law on Film Industry Effective in March

(Feb. 28, 2017) On November 7, 2016, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) passed the Film Industry Promotion Law, the first national law regulating the country’s film industry.  (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Dianying Chanye Cujin Fa (promulgated on Nov. 7, 2016, effective on Mar. 1, 2017), State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) website; Film Industry Promotion Law 2016, CHINA LAW TRANSLATE (Nov. 7, 2016) (unofficial English translation).)

Currently, the SAPPRFT and its local agencies are in charge of the administration of films, in accordance with the provisions of the Regulations on the Administration of Movies, which were issued by the State Council in 2001.  (Dianying Guanli Tiaoli (issued on Dec. 12, 2001, effective on Feb. 1, 2002), SAPPRFT website; Regulations on the Administration of Movies, WIPO LEX (click on “Download” hyperlink to view text).)  Article 24 of the 2001 Regulations provides that “[t]he State applies a film censorship system.”  (Id. art. 24.)  The Regulations further contain provisions on censorship throughout the processes of publication, display, import, and export of films.

The new Law keeps the censorship system, with some amendments, and adds provisions on promotion of the film industry.  Some highlights of the Film Industry Promotion Law are as follows.

Decentralization of Censorship

While the Regulations provide that the SAPPRFT is the film censorship authority (Regulations, art. 24), the Law grants that authority to both national and provincial administrations of the press, publication, radio, film, and television.  (Film Industry Promotion Law, arts. 13 & 17.)

Under the Film Industry Promotion Law, entities that plan to produce films will file the script outlines with the SAPPRFT or its provincial agencies for the record before shooting.  For films that involve sensitive topics, including China’s national security, foreign relations, ethnic groups, religion, and military affairs, completed scripts will be filed for examination “in accordance with relevant provisions of the State.”  (Id. art. 13.)  In contrast, under the Regulations the SAPPRFT is entitled to examine the completed scripts of all films to be produced, regardless of the topic.  (Regulations, art. 26.)  The Law also abolishes pre-production licenses that are required by the Regulations, making it easier for individual producers and small companies to enter the film industry market.  (Id. arts. 10 & 16.)

The new Law retains the requirement of obtaining a film release license, a license issued to the film producer by the SAPPRFT or its provincial agencies after reviewing the finished film.  (Film Industry Promotion Law, art. 17.)  The current Regulations forbid any publication or display of films by the producers without the release license.  (Regulations, art. 42.)  The Law further stipulates that films for which there is no release license will not be transmitted over the Internet, telecommunications networks, or radio and television networks; recorded as audio or video products; or submitted to any film festival or exhibition.  (Film Industry Promotion Law, arts. 20 & 21.)  Violators of the provisions will be subject to fines of 10 to 20 times the amount of the film revenues (id. art. 49), which is higher than the standard multiple of 10 to 15 times that had been prescribed by the Regulations.  (Regulations, art. 58.)

Promotion of the Film Industry

Chapter 4 of the Law provides for various means of promoting the film industry.  First, the Law provides for support for the film industry through fiscal tools, including special funding and tax incentives.  (Film Industry Promotion Law, arts. 37 & 38.)  Second, the Law encourages development of special finance and insurance products for the film industry.  (Id. art. 40.)  Third, local governments are required to construct and improve infrastructure facilities in support of the film industry and the Law encourages the development of the film industry in rural and poor areas.  (Id. arts. 39 & 43.)  Fourth, the Law encourages entities to conduct cross-border investment and promotional activities in the film industry.  (Id. arts. 41 & 44.)

Targeting Box-Office Fraud

The Law requires film publishing entities and cinemas to record film revenues truthfully and forbids false transactions.  (Id. art. 34.)  Noncompliance with the provision will be subject to confiscation of illegal gains and fines of up to five times the amount of illegal gains.  (Id. art. 51.)

Core Socialist Values

One of the legislative purposes of the Film Industry Promotion Law is to promote “core socialist values”; such values will be embedded in the examination standards of films.  (Id. arts. 1 & 16.)  The Law also requires film industry associations to issue self-discipline rules and to strengthen professional ethics education in the industry.  (Id. art. 9.)  In addition, it stipulates that actors and directors “shall behave professionally and ethically.”  (Id.)

Next Steps

The SAPPRFT has announced that the Regulations will be amended in 2017 in order to be consistent with the new Law.  (Yingzao Lianghao Fazhi Huanjing – 2017 Nian Xinwen Chuban Guangbo Yingshi Fazhi Gongzuo jiang zai Liu Fangmian Zhongdian Tuijin [Create a Good Legal Environment – Rule of Law Work Regarding the Press, Publishing, Radio, Film, and Television Will Focus on the Promotion of Six Aspects in 2017], CHINA NEWS AND PUBLICATION (Feb. 16, 2017).)  The amended Regulations are likely to provide detailed guidance on implementation of the Film Industry Promotion Law.

Prepared by Emma Wei, Law Library Intern, under the supervision of Laney Zhang, Senior Foreign Law Specialist.