[SPORTS] Is China Ready for Olympic Close-Up?
- Is China ready for its close-up?
As the world focuses on the Beijing Olympics, will the government
drop the curtain on entertainment pirates?
By Dan Glickman, DAN GLICKMAN is chairman and chief executive of the
Motion Picture Assn. of America.
AS BEIJING begins preparing for the 2008 Olympic Games, we will see
more and more of the Olympic logo, one of the most widely recognized
pieces of intellectual property and one of the best protected.
To be sure, fake depictions of the five rings and the logos of
individual Games have plagued the International Olympic Committee and
host country Olympic committees. But the integrity of the logo will
be tested like never before when the torch enters Beijing.
China is arguably the world's largest marketplace for pirated goods
from copied luxury items and medicines to bootleg versions of the
latest films. Will knockoffs of Beijing's running-man logo for the
2008 Games become as commonplace?
A recent news story cited a Chinese manufacturer who observed that
his government was implementing strict control over the production
and distribution of Olympics materials "to protect the value of the
logo" and it's working. Will China translate its apparent will to
protect the integrity of its Olympic logo to movies, music,
publications, television, entertainment and business software,
pharmaceuticals and other industries that are built and dependent on
effective protection of their intellectual property?
In a little less than two years from now, hundreds of thousands of
people will travel to China for the Games that billions of people
will watch on television. I know the kind of China I want them to
see: a responsible great power, a leading player in the world's
affairs abiding by the rules of the community of nations. I also want
to see China as welcoming of movies and other entertainment from
around the world as the government will be of fans and athletes from
around the world.
Indeed, China has actively sought such recognition, most pronounced
in its successful bid to join the World Trade Organization. Along
with recognition, that membership carries responsibility, a duty that
China has failed to meet in opening its market to legitimate
entertainment industries and protecting intellectual property and the
value of creativity. This deficiency is not just an intolerable
burden to the U.S. motion picture industry; it afflicts filmmakers
worldwide, including those in China. An independent Chinese film
producer recently told me that his single biggest problem is the
piracy of his work by his fellow countrymen.
During my last trip to China, I heard from Chinese officials all
too frequently that the rest of the world must be patient, that we
must give China more time to develop a sophisticated, comprehensive
and effective system of protections for intellectual property rights.
The authorities said that modern China has a mere 20 years
experience a small fraction of that of the United States.
I reject this explanation. My first trip to China was more than 20
years ago. The transformation of the nation and its economy since
then has been astonishing, made possible by a commitment to purpose
and a purposeful will both of which have been lacking in its
approach to intellectual property rights. Although China has opened
itself to the world in many remarkable ways, the U.S. motion picture
industry still faces a bewildering array of restrictions, hobbling
its fair access to China's market. At the same time that China
effectively permits pirates unfettered access to Chinese movie
consumers 93% of the film market is pirated goods, according to
Motion Picture Assn. of America research it severely restricts the
ability of legitimate moviemakers who have invested enormous capital
in producing the filmed entertainment that the pirates steal. This
gives the pirates a monopoly.
I challenge Beijing to use the 2008 Games to showcase a new
commitment to movie rights. Beijing has enlisted the help of some of
the greatest American film directors to create projects to showcase
China and the Olympics. Yet these same directors have repeatedly had
their films rejected for exhibition in China. But make no mistake,
their films are widely known and viewed in China, thanks to the sales
of millions of pirated DVDs.
In 2008, the world could see China as a nation of fake goods, a
nation running roughshod over respect for intellectual property. Or
it could be seen as a respected member of the international community
that welcomes a diversity of entertainment products while protecting
and valuing the integrity of intellectual property.
China is a great power. Will it act like one?