China to Crack Down on ‘CAM’ Piracy & Online Distribution Platforms

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Following a recent call from China's National Copyright Administration (NCAC) for the public to assist in the fight against piracy, the agency is promising further action. In a statement issued this week, the NCAC says it will crack down on 'cam' recording in cinemas and will put online distribution platforms under intense scrutiny.

China has long been associated with rampant counterfeiting and copyright infringement, with the country facing criticism in the West on an almost daily basis.

Over the past couple of years, however, Chinese authorities have become increasingly vocal when these activities are perceived to have a negative effect locally. In particular, the government appears to have a new interest in curtailing movie piracy.

Last year, MPAA chairman Charles Rivkin declared that China will become the world’s top movie market “in short order”, overtaking the likes of the United States and Canada, despite the country (at least officially) capping foreign films to around three dozen per year.

At this scale, China clearly sees importance in protecting revenues in its local market and to this end has just announced fresh moves to curtail piracy in the region, declaring it a “priority” for 2019.

The National Copyright Administration (NCAC) says that it will pour resources into reducing the unauthorized recording of movies in theaters, an act known colloquially as “camming”. Given that the majority of the movies released in the region are local productions, it seems unlikely that the West will benefit greatly, but the action will be welcomed nonetheless.

The NCAC adds that with the assistance of the China Film Administration, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, it will “dig deep” into the sources of piracy and “sternly investigate” online platforms that help to distribute pirated content, such as websites, chat platforms, and smartphone apps.

In serious cases, the NCAC says platforms will be dealt with under a criminal process but at the same time, major Internet platforms will also be encouraged to strengthen their “corporate responsibility” when dealing with infringement complaints.

The NCAC suggests that sites outside the country are mainly responsible for hosting pirated movies (with links shared locally) so it intends to improve cooperation with other interested parties internationally. This is of particular interest given a piece published on the NCAC site on Monday.

While written by an outside source, the article on the copyright agency site appears to praise the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the global anti-piracy organization headed up by the MPAA.

“[T]he Motion Picture Association of America and its member companies have joined forces with 30 companies around the world, such as Netflix and Amazon, to form a global organization,” the piece reads.

“Through the cooperation between global companies, we will make full use of the technology and experience of all parties to enhance the level of combating online piracy.”

Again, the article wasn’t written by the NCAC, but the fact that it chose to publish the piece in full tends to suggest that the agency agrees with the strategy. There are certainly strong indications that the way forward is through collaboration on a global scale, but that’s not to say there isn’t work to be done at home.

Last week, the NCAC asked the public to report discovered instances of piracy through direct messages on Weibo, WeChat, and email. 

“Please provide infringement clues and clean up the online copyright environment. Let’s work together,” the agency wrote.


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