The Coming Golden Age: Eight Highlights of the Film Industry Promotion Law
2017/3/8 10:26:53 点击率[767] 评论[0]
    【英文关键字】the Film Industry Promotion Law

      After a long wait, the Film Industry Promotion Law of the People’s Republic of China(“Film Industry Promotion Law”) was finally adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC Standing Committee) on November 7, 2016.It will enter into force on March 1, 2017. The Film Industry Promotion Lawwill form a fundamental legal foundation for the film industry. Therefore,its promulgation has more than simply symbolic significance. Preparation for the law began as early as the1980s.Nonetheless, the first draft for soliciting opinions was released onDecember 15, 2011. The past five years witnessed three rounds of deliberation by the NPC Standing Committee. The Film Industry Promotion Lawencompassesall manner ofproduction in the film industry, from film creation, to production, through distribution, and finally to movie screening. With the rapid development of its film industry, China has become the second largest film market in the world. However, China’s film industry still faces particularproblems, including unitary themes, a deficit of originality, mediocre quality, lackluster production values, and even box office fraud. The Film Industry Promotion Law streamlines administration so as to stimulate creativity in the film market. It also aims to strengthen regulationsprohibitingirregular practices in the film industryand provide powerful legal protections for film development. As the first law of China directly coveringthe cultural sector, the Film Industry Promotion Law will have long-term and profound influences on the development of cultural industries.This article will summarize and interpret eight highlights of the Film Industry Promotion Law with close relation to practitioners of the film industry from a practical point of view.
      Highlight One: Lowering Market Entry Thresholds for Film Production
      Before the promulgation of the Film Industry Promotion Lawentry into the film industry proved difficult. As the law stands today, an enterprise which engages in film production for the first time shall establish a film culture company and obtain the Permit for Production of Film (single film) in accordance with the Regulations on the Administration of Films (the Regulations) and the Interim Provisions on the Operation Qualification Access for Film Enterprises. A producer can apply for the Permit for Film Production which can be used repeatedly only after producing two or more films approved for public screening. The Film Industry Promotion Law cancels both the requirement mandating administrative approval for film producers as well as the Permitfor Production of Film (single film).In addition, it lowers the threshold for entryinto the film production industry. Finally, it facilitates competition among various players and the overall capital circulation in the film market.
      We expect more film project companies specificallyfor the production of one film to emerge after the cancellation of the Permitfor Production of Film.We anticipate the business modelsfor joint film production in cooperation with film production companies having the Permit for Film Production will drop off dramatically, or even vanish, as the need for a Permit for Film Production formally lapses. It will also become easier to define the rights and obligations of various parties participating in film production and to standardize operation management and revenue accounting under the legal framework of a project companyso as to safeguard the interests of all parties.
      Highlight Two: SimplifiedFiling Procedures for Screenplays
      In accordance with the presentRegulations, a film production company shall submit itsscreenplay to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (“SARFT”). Film companies must file its screenplay before initiating production for any film. Furthermore, films areunable to proceed to production if the screenplay fails to pass the examination. The Film Industry Promotion Lawsimplifies the administration of screenplay filing for certain categories of films.For example, films involving major themes or related to national security, diplomacy, ethnic affairs, religious affairs and military affairs, must have their screenplays submitted to SARFT or provincial departments for records.For films involving more general themes, only screenplay outlines require submission to SARFT or provincial departments for the record. These new provisions on screenplayswill certainly simplify the early preparations of film producers; but they may also expose film-makers to increased risks later down the line. In accordance with the provisions on pre-examination of screenplays, a film producer maynot begin the film production shouldthe screenplay fail to pass the examination.On the other hand, the Film Industry Promotion Lawexcuses screenplays involving general themes from pre-examination.So there is a potential trap. A producer must pay closer attention to risk prevention while ensuringthe acceptability of the quality of thescreenplay. Otherwise it will face great difficulty in recovering any losses following film productionifthe permit for public screening cannot be obtained due tounqualified screenplay contents.
      Highlight Three:Decentralized,Professional, and Transparent Film Censorship
      In accordance withthe Regulations, SARFT enjoys concentrated power overfilm examinations. The Film Industry Promotion Lawdecentralizes the film censorship power to lower levels to some extent. Article 17 of the Film Industry Promotion Law stipulates that a produced film must be submitted to SARFT or provincial departments for films for censorship. However, the Film Industry Promotion Law does not specify which films shall be submitted to SARFT for censorshipor which films shall be submitted to the provincial departments.
      In addition to delegating censorship, the Film Industry Promotion Law also emphasizes that the competent film department under the State Council shall formulate and improve the specific standards and procedures for film censorship in accordance with the Film Industry Promotion Law. Further, public opinions shall be solicited and standards shall be demonstrated by experts.The expert review system shall be applied tofilm examinations. At least five experts will evaluate each film. Their opinions then will form animportant basis for examination decisions. Where a legal person or other organization raises objections to the opinions of review experts, the competent departments for films shall organize other experts for re-examination. The open and transparentcensorship standards and the establishment of expert review system will create a good environment for fair competition in the film market.
      Highlight Four:Online Films
      During the discussion of the Film Industry Promotion Law by the NPC Standing Committee, some deputies suggested that online films should be regulated by the Film Industry Promotion Law. At present, there is no specific definition for“online films” in the laws or regulations. According to the industry practice, an online film usually refers to a film with a length of more than 60 minutes which is produced in a manner similar to film production and mainly distributed and screened through the Internet. Online filmsare technically the same as a film regulated by the Film Industry Promotion Law, at least in terms of production. Bothuse high-definition digital equipment for shooting, sound recording and videotaping. Each tells a complete story with sound and images.Even image quality generally meets the technical standards for screening in cinemas. However, the above suggestion was not reflected in the final version of the Film Industry Promotion Law, so online films are not subject to the regulation by the Film Industry Promotion Law. In accordance with Article 2 of the Film Industry Promotion Law: “A film refers to a work which is produced by using audio-video technology and artistic means, recorded on films or digital carriers, consisting of continuous images (either silent or with audio), expressing a certain content, and which complies with technical standards stipulated by the State; further, such work shall be produced for public screening at cinemas and other fixed screening venues or can be displayed through mobile screening devices.”This narrows the definition of films from the perspective ofscreening places and screening equipment, and apparently excludes online films. Though online films are not subject to the regulation by the Film Industry Promotion Law, they do encounter regulation. Their production and online distribution must comply with the relevant provisions on Internet information services, such as those in the Provisions on the Administration of Internet Audio-Video Programmes. We noticed that with the robust development of online films, the regulatory departments are getting to realize the importance of online film examinations, and may further intensify the regulation of online films after their uploading or formulate separate examination and regulation rules.
      Highlight Five: Severe Punishment of Fraud at the Box Office
      The development of China’s film market has long been haunted by various phenomena of box office fraud, such as the “fake box office,” the“ghost box office”or“fake screenings.”Thesephenomena can hardly be eliminatedfor two reasons; first, unsound regulation, and second,due to insufficient punishment by the regulatory departments. Yip Man 3 caused an uproar for box office fraud, but its principals suffered a “superficial” punishment by the regulatory department.Its distributor was ordered to suspend business activities forone-month.Offending affiliated cinemas and e-commerce merchants received mere warnings. The Film Industry Promotion Law greatly improvesthe regulation and punishment of box office fraud. Article 34 of the Film Industry Promotion Law stipulatesthat film distribution enterprises and cinemas musttruthfully calculate their film sales revenues and provide authentic and accurate statistical data. They may not deceiveor mislead the audience,nor may they disturb the order of film market by fabricating false transactions,either by making a false or concealed report of sales revenue, or adopting other improper methods.”Any film distributor or cinema which fabricates false transactions or makes a false report or conceals his report concerning sales revenue shall be ordered to make corrections by the competent department for films in the people’s government at or above the county level. In addition, illegal gains shall be confiscated, and a fine shall be imposed amounting to at least RMB 50,000 but not to exceedRMB 500,000.In cases where illegal gains exceed RMB 500,000, a fine of no less than one,but no more than five times the illegal gains shall be imposed upon it. Where the circumstances are serious, it may be ordered to suspend business as a measure of rectification. Its permit may even be revoked in addition to the fine.
      Highlight Six:Limited Freedom forAdvertisements in Films
      Article 32 of the Film Industry Promotion Law stipulates that a cinema shall not display any advertisementson the screen during the time period between the start of a film and the end of the filmscreening. This measure strictly limits the time for a cinema to broadcast advertisements. Cinemas can only broadcast advertisements before the specified time of film screening. Such a provision provides the legal guarantee for interest and the film-watching experience of the audience. However, the Film Industry Promotion Law makes no restriction on the embedded advertisements in a film. At the same time, the Film Industry Promotion Law encourages cinemas to broadcast public welfare advertisements before the specified time of film screening.
      Highlight Seven: Continued Protection ofDomestic Films
      With the purpose of promoting the development of domestic films, the Film Industry Promotion Law focuses on the regulation and promotion of China’s film industry. Chapter IV stipulates various support and safeguard measures. In accordance with the Film Industry Promotion Law, the State Council and the local people’s governments at or above the county level shall include the development of film industry in their national economic and social development plans. The Film Industry Promotion Law also includes guiding provisions on the promotion of film industry in such aspects as special capital and funds, tax preferences, assurances of land use by cinemas, financing assurances, and talent policy. Even more importantly, the Film Industry Promotion Law reaffirms the mandatory provision ofthe Regulationsas tothe length of time for screening domestic films. Specifically, domestic films shall be screened for not less than two-thirds of the total film screening time available in a given calendar year.
      Highlight Eight:Administration of Sino-Foreign Joint Cooperative Productions and ForeignFilms
      In line with the philosophy of current regulations, the Film Industry Promotion Law prohibits overseas organizations from engaging in independent film production within the territory of China. It even prohibits foreigners from engaging in film production within the territory of China. However, foreign-funded institutions may produce films in cooperation with domestic organizations under the premise of obtaining SARFT’s approval. A domestic film producer shall not cooperate with any overseas organizationswhose activities may damage the dignity, honor and interests of China, endanger social stability, or harm national sentiments. Furthermore, even domestic producers must avoid employing any individual with any of the aforesaid activities for film production. Currently and in accordance with theAdministrative Provisions for Sino-Foreign Co-production of Films, foreign capital may enter China’s film market by means of joint production, coordinated production, and entrusted production within the territory of China in cooperation with Chinese partners. The Film Industry Promotion Law includes no provisions on further opening up China’s film market to the foreign capital. In this regard, Yan Xiaohong, Vice Minister of SARFT, said administration of foreign-related films will be determined through revision of the Regulations.There is good news for foreign capital.The Film Industry Promotion Lawstipulates that if a film resulting from joint productionconforms to the proportional requirements in terms of production, funding, and profit distribution, thatfilm will be regarded as a film produced by domestic legal persons or other organizations.However, the Film Industry Promotion Law does not specify the requirements on such proportions. As an important part of China’s cultural sector, the film industry is remarkably affected by the relevant policies, and it has yet to be clarified in the revision of the Regulations whether co-produced films can enjoy the same treatment as domestic films (in terms of public screening, etc.).
      With the gradually maturing regulation practices in China’s film industry, the Film Industry Promotion Lawcancels some administrative licenses under the Regulations, lowers the entry threshold, and simplifies a series of approval procedures. The overall effect will promote fair competition in the film market. At the same time, the Film Industry Promotion Law maintains and improves some systems underthe Regulations, such as the strict examination of produced filmsand the approval of their distribution and screening, while greatly enhancing the professionalism and transparency of such examination and approval. The Film Industry Promotion Law improves regulation measures, refines regulation procedures, and enhances punishments against illegal acts, while playing an important role in standardizing the development of film industry.
      It is worth noting that there still are many issues to be further addressed, such as the administration of films in import and export, the specific implementation of jointly produced films, the overseas promotion of domestic films, the detailed standards and procedures of film examination, and the specific conditions for examination, approval, change, and termination of distribution and screening enterprises. Further, it is unfortunate that the film rating system, which has been a focus of requests for years, is not introduced in the Film Industry Promotion Law. As the Film Industry Promotion Law is going to be effective on March 1, 2017, the revision of the Regulations becomes an urgent task and will address the above issues.Special provisions shall be formulated for some issues.
      The Film Industry Promotion Law includes provisions on supporting thefilm industry in such aspects as budget, taxation, finance and land use; however, these provisions are mainly principles and are not practical. The relevant departments (e.g. the Ministry of Finance, the National Development and Reform Commission, the State Administration of Taxation, SARFT) shall formulate detailed rules for the implementation of such promotional policies.
      “Law is not everything.”It is impossible that the Film Industry Promotion Law will solve all problems in the development of China’s film industry. Domestic films cannot only rely on policy support, as they have to face the competition from Hollywood and in the global market. The regulatory departments shall carry out law-based administration to stipulate the creativity of filmmakers and create a market environment for fair competition, and all practitioners shall enhance their law-abiding consciousness, so as to realize the prosperous development of China’s film industry. With the efforts of all filmmakers and the help of the Film Industry Promotion Law, China’s film industry will achieve sustainable development under the legal supervision. China is on the verge of moving from a big country of numerous films towards a powerful country of great films.

    Michael Gu,AnJie Law Firm.
    [1]Michael Gu is a founding partner of AnJie Law Firm based in Beijing. Michael’s practice focuses on M&A, entertainment and art law. Michael Gu can be reached by email: or telephone at (8610) 85675959.
    [2]Speech by Yan Xiaohong, Vice Minister of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, at the NPC Standing Committee’s press conference on November 7, 2016.
    [3]Speech by Yan Xiaohong, Vice Minister of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, at the NPC Standing Committee’s press conference on November 7, 2016.