China Issues a Film Industry Promotion Law

The PRC National Congress has passed a Film Industry Promotion Law (“FIPL”) on November 7, 2016.  The law will be in force since March 1, 2017.

In general, the FIPL has updated the existing regulations governing the film production and distribution in China.  As expected, content control plays a central role of the law.  It bans film content deemed harmful to the “dignity, honour and interests” of the country (Art. 14).  It also encourages the promotion of “socialist core values” (Arts. 1 & 36).  In addition, foreign individuals or organizations who has previously conducted activities that are deemed “prejudice the dignity, honor and interest of country, endanger the social stability or hurt the nationalist emotion” will be prohibited to participate in the film production in China.

In addition, the law also restricted overseas companies from independently shooting films in the territory of China even if the film is not planned to be disseminated in Chinese market.  The foreign production companies must cooperate with one of the Chinese companies in the industry so that they can use the scene in the territory of China.

Despite the above, the FIPL does loosen certain restrictions at the technical level.  For example, the law has repealed the government license for setting up a film production company.   The law also allows the provincial level authorities to conduct pre-distribution review and approval of the films (previously all films must be reviewed by a committee in the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television).

The law claims that the country should protect the intellectual property and has said that a local governmental authority at the county level has power to enforce the IP laws against pirates (Art. 7).  It remains unclear which authority would be empowered to conduct the enforcement actions.  Observing the current structure of local governmental authorities, it is very likely that the “Administration of Culture, Broadcasting, Film, Television, News and Publication” at the city level will be the enforcement agency.

Finally, the FIPL provides that the country will establish a “National Film File Archive” to collect the films.  Interestingly, the law says that this institute will also “make the film files available to the public”, which, in its literature meaning, may bring some intellectual property concerns and thus its implementation deserves to be closely monitored.