Time is running out for China to crack down on movie piracy as well as open its markets, the Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Dan Glickman told Congress on Thursday.
“We will continue our work inside China, with the officials there, with the industry,” Glickman testified to a House subcommittee hearing. “However, our patience and our pocketbooks are not limitless.”
Glickman said Congress has a key supporting role to play, asserting that “the biggest thing right now is for the Chinese government to see our government ready to take legal action” in the World Trade Organization, which accepted China as a member five years ago.
“We have walked a long way down the China road, looking and hoping for improvement,” he said. “We may be nearing the end of that course and deciding on whether to take another, which calls China into account for its WTO obligations and responsibilities, and, we believe, its failure to abide by them.”
Glickman said that rampant piracy combined with unrivaled market restrictions have made China “the most difficult market in the world for the U.S. motion picture industry.”
Some 90% of DVDs available in China are bootlegs, and authorities “lack the will,” Glickman said, to do anything more than the minimum to enforce antipiracy laws.
Unless pirates are ripping off the Chinese government’s sponsorship of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, Glickman said. “While fake DVDs litter Beijing, fake Olympic-logo materials are impossible to find,” he noted.
Glickman listed several barriers the Chinese government has kept in place to limit the U.S. movie industry’s access to the domestic market. From restricting the total number of foreign films allowed in each year to a mere 20 to controlling distribution of those films and often censoring them, the Chinese government is preventing “legitimate companies from supplying Chinese audiences the filmed entertainment they clearly desire,” Glickman said.
While China has publicly pledged to enforce antipiracy laws, “it has met neither its unilaterally announced objectives nor its international obligations,” Glickman said.
MPAA estimates the industry lost $244 million in potential revenue in China during 2005. “The U.S. motion picture cannot continue to absorb losses of the magnitude it suffers in China,” Glickman said.
He concluded by calling on Congress to join MPAA in pressuring China to do better fast or feel the consequences.
“I believe we must step up enforcement, open the market, possibly take legal action at the WTO, and we must also shine the powerful light of world public opinion on the Chinese,” Glickman said.
Members of the subcommittee expressed deep concern about overall trade with China and solicited ideas and opinions from Glickman and other witnesses about how to deal with the problem.