The Motion Picture Assn. and China's government have agreed in writing for the first time to cooperate to fight film piracy in China.


BEIJING -- The Motion Picture Assn. and China's government have agreed in writing for the first time to cooperate to fight film piracy in China.

The MPA, China's Ministry of Culture (MOC) and media regulator the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) signed a memorandum July 13 that specifically targets pirated versions of new releases and agrees on a quarterly anti-piracy review, the MPA said in a statement.

Counterfeit versions of foreign and Chinese films are nearly always widely available in China on DVD or VCD even before their theatrical release dates in China.

Agreed upon in the wake of U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) talks in Beijing the week of July 11, the memorandum says that the MPA will submit a list of the films its member companies will release in China to the MOC and SARFT every three months.

"All home video products that are available in the marketplace prior to the legitimate home video release date in China will be deemed illegal ... and forfeited, and when a criminal copyright infringement offense has been committed, the case will be prosecuted," the MPA said.

Critics say IPR violation cases in China have been dealt with historically by regional administrators whose punishments are insufficient deterrent.

Mike Ellis, MPA Asia Pacific director, said he was hopeful that piracy will be reduced quickly and all film producers and distributors would benefit.

"Piracy is a scourge that is badly harming the Chinese film industry as well as foreign producers and distributors," said Ellis, a co-signer of the agreement.

SARFT deputy director Zhang Pimin, also a co-signer, told state run Xinhua News Agency, "China and the United States have common understandings, interests and objectives in eliminating piracy."

The Chinese government will soon approve a copyright protection association for all movies screened in China, Zhang said.

Quarterly conferences are to be held to check the anti-piracy agreement's effectiveness, the MPA said. For films not covered by the memorandum, additional consultations will be held.

The MPA estimates that China's film piracy was 95% at the end of 2004, causing its member companies to lose potential revenue of $280 million, and making piracy in China the worst of the 15 Asian countries it tracked in its survey.

Chinese law enforcement authorities seized 175 million pirated audio and video discs and busted 21 underground production lines last year, according to Xinhua.