Gov't calls for strict Internet cafe regulations

BEIJING — China continues to play the role of strict parent.

With Chinese youngsters getting more and more into the Web, the government has banned new Internet cafes from opening this year.

Lawmakers at China’s annual session of parliament, the National People’s Congress, have called for stricter regulations to keep teenagers away from the cafes.

Meanwhile, the long-running campaign to introduce a film classification system received a boost this week when another Congress delegate said the country needed a law to restrict a “violent culture” in films and on TV in order to protect young people.

Internet cafes that had received planning approval must be completed by June 30. There are about 113,000 Internet cafes and bars in China.

China has banned minors from cybercafes and imposes heavy fines on operators who defy regulations in a bid to curb soaring rates of addiction that have accompanied the rapid spread of the Internet in recent years. A government think tank reckons that 13% of the country’s 18 million Web users under 18 are addicted to the Internet.

On the film front, movies in China are not rated, although they are heavily censored, mostly for sexual content or politically suspect themes.

Without a film classification system, there is no middle ground, and while a ratings system has been mooted for many years, filmmakers complain that it could be years before one is instituted.

In 2004, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said China would introduce a ratings system based on the nation’s legal framework, not on foreign countries’ templates, but there has been no advance on the issue since.

China’s filmmakers believe a reliable film classification system would clarify the parameters of censorship, allowing for more risks with content and story, and ultimately woo bigger auds and boost the biz.

The lack of a film classification system means the only tools at the censor’s disposal are cutting entire scenes or simply banning a movie — both drastic steps when one considers that script approval has already been granted once a movie is in production.

Meting out another form of discipline in the country, the Motion Picture Assn. and the government have been busy with piracy prosecution.

Org’s latest victory came when a Shanghai court convicted a DVD retailer in the city’s central business district of copyright infringement for selling pirated versions of MPA member company movies.

The MPA has concluded more than 15 civil actions in China, all of which have been settled or judged in favor of the MPA member company plaintiffs. There are more than 35 other cases pending.

MPA studios, which include Buena Vista Intl., Paramount, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Warner Bros, lost $6.1 billion to worldwide piracy in 2005, with the Asia-Pacific region accounting for $1.2 billion and the U.S. for $1.3 billion.

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