Feds poised to demand evidence of crackdown

Despite calls from Washington to prove it is trying to stop “rampant” piracy, China insists it’s made good progress in improving movie copyright protection since signing a joint antipiracy enforcement agreement with the U.S. in July.

In Washington, Trade Representative Rob Portman said the U.S. would invoke a rarely used World Trade Organization article to request evidence from China of what it’s doing to stop copyright infringement.

Box office receipts in China doubled to $300 million last year, but the Motion Picture Assn. believes 95% of its members’ products were pirated there at the end of the year, with the associated loss of revenue exceeding $280 million.

Under the July agreement, the MPA submits a list of films to the Ministry of Culture and the State Administration of Radio, Film & Television; surveyors check out DVD and VCD shops in major cities for the new releases.

The first seven titles submitted by the MPA included “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “XXX: State of the Union” and “Batman Begins.”

MPA checks of target outlets in Shanghai found no pirate versions of films covered by the agreement were available during October, and in Guangzhou and Shenzhen there was a big reduction in September.

But Mike Ellis, the MPA’s senior VP and regional director for Asia-Pacific, said the availability of pirated versions of identified titles had actually increased since September in Beijing.

“There will be no quick fixes to China’s serious piracy problems,” he told a piracy confab Wednesday.

Zhang Xinjian, vice director of the Market Supervision Department of the Ministry of Culture, reaffirmed China’s commitment to the long-term battle against piracy.

“The establishment of the copyright protection coordination mechanism is good for both American and Chinese film industries,” he said.

MPA prexy Dan Glickman said Chinese piracy of American movies remained unacceptably high despite recent Chinese government actions to protect Hollywood output.

“The U.S. government’s request for information on the administrative, civil and criminal actions to enforce China’s intellectual property rights obligations is critical to ensuring China’s international commitments and to protecting the rights of the U.S. copyright industries,” Glickman said.

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