U.S. ups WTO case against China

Washington seeking consultations

HONG KONG — The U.S. may include Chinese regulations on downloading music and films as part of its ongoing complaint against China about trade in entertainment products and services.

Speaking at the World Trade Organization in Geneva on Wednesday, Stephen Norton, a spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, said that Washington is seeking consultations with China.

Downloading rules appear to discriminate against foreign sound recordings and films, he said. Hollywood studios and U.S. Internet music providers like Apple’s iTunes may suffer from “less favorable distribution opportunities” for imported films and foreign suppliers of music recordings in China,

“Music from foreign sources needs to undergo content review before being distributed in China. Chinese music doesn’t have to face that process,” Norton said, “The review delays Chinese Internet providers and Chinese consumers from accessing foreign music.”

Norton pointed to similar discrimination when Chinese consumers download music onto mobile phones.

The Chinese entertainment sector is heavily controlled and foreign firms face considerable operational restrictions, including rules that prevent them owning or investing in businesses that distribute music over the Internet.

Earlier this year the U.S. angered Beijing when it filed notice of two actions to be pursued against China through the WTO. concerning pirated copies of music and movies and another for placing market barriers against U.S. companies offering legitimate products.

The move to the WTO over downloading now triggers a 60-day consultation period. If the two fail to resolve the dispute Washington is expected to add the downloading complaint to the two existing actions.

“Imported films can be distributed within China only by two entities and only on a nationwide basis,” the statement said. Chinese films, by contrast, are not limited to two distribution companies and can be released nationally, provincially or locally, it added.

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