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China Finds Something Else To Regulate, Brings In Its First Law For The Film Industry

Techdirt has been covering China’s relentless clampdown on every aspect of the online world for some time, culminating in the new “cybersecurity” law that’s just been passed. But if you think the Chinese authorities are now done, you’d be wrong. They are branching out into an entirely new field — cinema — with a law that the official Xinhua News Agency calls “the first of its kind in China“:

The top legislature on Monday adopted a film industry law, promising harsh punishment for firms that fabricate box office earnings, data or information.

That makes it sound like it is mostly about regulating the commercial activities of China’s cinema industry. And it’s true that there are some measures designed to prevent fraud, apparently something of a problem in the country:

Film distributors and theaters will have all their illegal earnings confiscated and be fined up to 500,000 yuan (about 73,800 U.S. dollars) if they falsify ticket sales data, according to the law adopted at the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee bimonthly session after a third reading.

If their illegal earnings exceed 500,000 yuan, the fine will be up to five times their illegitimate earnings.

They may also be hit with an operating suspension or have their business certificates revoked in serious cases, according to the new law.

But the meat of the legislation is probably to be found in the following aspects:

The law specified that actors, directors and other staff should be “excellent in both moral integrity and film art,” maintain self-disciplined and build a positive public image.

The [government] media watchdog is also establishing a “professional ethics committee,” aiming to guide organizations and people in the radio, film and media circles to practice “core socialist values.”

And it’s not just the actors who must be on their best behavior under the new law:

China will support the making of films championing excellent Chinese culture and socialist core values.

Chinese groups can cooperate with overseas counterparts in film shooting, excluding overseas organizations and individuals that engage in “activities damaging China’s national dignity, honor and interests, or harming social stability or hurting national feelings,” the law said.

Since China is now the world’s second-largest film market according to Xinhua, there will probably be plenty of Western companies that will be interested in co-productions. But the new rules mean that the Chinese government’s interest in a film’s storyline is now quite explicit, and that anything that “hurts national feelings” is a definite no-no. That probably means more discreet compromises of the kind recently seen in the film Doctor Strange, where a Tibetan Ancient One mysteriously turned into a Celtic Ancient One.

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