|Time to Honor Foreign Film Copyrights|
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Things have been a bit rocky in China in the past for the holders of foreign movie copyrights, but now, according to the China Film Copyright Association (CFCA), copyright protection organizations outside China can seek redress by cooperating with their Chinese counterparts.
This applies specifically to collecting royalties if the movie is shown in Chinese Internet cafes or on long-distance buses, a CFCA official has said.
China introduces 20 overseas movies each year, but many of them are then shown in unauthorized ways, infringing on the movies' copyright holders, CFCA spokeswoman Shi Wenxia said on the sideline of a copyright forum in Beijing.
Although Shi said the association has not started collecting any royalties for overseas movies yet, "the foreign film copyright offices are welcome to discuss the matter with us."
In its opening move in this matter, CFCA announced in mid-October that it will begin charging Internet cafes and long-distance buses for showing Chinese movies in eight provinces and municipalities, next year. It will later apply the ruling nationwide.
Here's how it works: an Internet cafe with, say, 100 computers, charging 3 yuan (45 cents) per hour for their use, will have to pay a copyright royalty of 22.5 yuan a day, or about 8,000 yuan annually. In the case of long-distance buses, the movie-use charge will run from 365 to 500 yuan annually, according to China's National Copyright Administration rules.
And, Shi added, CFCA prefers to negotiate with overseas film copyright organizations rather than with individual holders, and only the royalties of overseas movies authorized for China can be discussed.
She said that there have already been some brief communications between entertainment companies in the United States, like the National Broadcasting Company and Disney, and CFCA.
But, an easier way, she said, would be to go through the Motion Picture Association of America, for example, and, as long as an agreement is reached, CFCA will submit the details to the National Copyright Administration for approval.
The State General Administration of Radio, Film and Television approves only 20 overseas movies for China every year, mostly Hollywood blockbusters.
Current policy says that foreign film copyright owners can claim 14 percent of the China revenues, according to Beijing's Mirror Evening News.
One example is the global blockbuster Avatar, which can claim 180 million yuan from a total of 1,300 million yuan in China box office receipts. Nearly half is kept by the local theaters.
A member of the Copyright Society of China, who would not give a name, said that one way for overseas film companies to protect their copyright in China is to establish a company in China and apply for CFCA membership.
According to a China Film Producers' Association forecast, box office earnings here are expected to reach 30 to 40 billion yuan by 2015, making China the world's second-largest movie market.
The CFCA has also noted, Chinese Internet users, aged 18 to 35, each download an average of 31 movies annually, pirating most of them. The association also estimates that piracy will result in about 14 billion yuan in film industry losses in 2010.
Wang Qian, an intellectual property rights professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law, said he believes the cooperation by Chinese and foreign movie copyright holders is actually feasible.
"The Music Copyright Society of China has cooperated with dozens of overseas organizations and provides a good example. There must be a way to cooperate between movie copyright organizations at home and abroad."
The opinions expressed do not constitute investment advice and specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
Published on our website on Nov.2, 2010