Founder of video captioning site sentenced to 3.5 years in prison; Hollywood films struggle in China

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Liang Yongping, founder of video captioning group and streaming site YYeTs Renren Yingshi (人人 影视), was sentenced to a heavy fine and 3.5 years in prison for piracy. He was arrested in February along with 13 other people. The popular streaming site, once praised by People’s Daily for allowing young Chinese people to “taste the joys of study,” was dedicated to providing free Chinese-subtitled streams of TV shows, foreign films and videos. At the South China Morning Post, Guo Rui reported Liang Yongping’s line and the reasons behind the popularity of Chinese subtitling groups:

Video download and streaming site founder Renren Yingshi was sentenced on Monday to three and a half years in prison and fined 1.5 million yuan (US $ 230,000) for pirating more than 30,000 television programs and Chinese and foreign films.

[…] Piracy is rampant in China in part because of strict import quotas imposed by authorities, limiting the number of foreign films and TV shows – which are hugely popular among young Chinese people – can be legally broadcast each year.

[…] Additionally, China does not have a film rating system, with state censors exercising strict control over content by cutting scenes they deem politically sensitive, violent, or vulgar. [Source]

The reason given by the authorities for targeting Renren Yingshi was a renewed commitment to intellectual property rights. Some suspect that the site has also violated official efforts to limit and control the importation of foreign culture into China. Wang Ying, Associate Professor of Law at Renmin University in Beijing, says Nikkei Asia that the authorities must allow better access to foreign cultural products: “Even a meadow fire cannot burn all the weeds. When the spring breeze blows, the weeds grow back vigorously. At Sixth Tone, Fan Yiying and Zhu Zimo reported that Chinese authorities’ attempts to limit importation of “unhealthy works” have not reduced demand for foreign uncensored television:

Foreign movies and TV shows – mostly in English – are popular in China, but the majority are not legally available. Companies like YYeTs – which had been operating under different names since 2003 and had more than 6 million subscribers on its website – emerged to fill the void by providing not only pirated copies online, but also Chinese subtitles, making them accessible to a wider audience.

[…] “China strictly manages publications to prevent the importation of unhealthy works and works with ulterior motives,” Chen Binyin, partner at Shanghai-based Boss & Young Attorneys at Law, told Sixth Tone. “Copyright ownership does not depend on registration in China, rather it arises automatically, at the end of the creation of works. “

[…] “China is paying more attention to copyright issues, so I predicted that day would come sooner or later” [Zhang Yating, a 29-year-old Shanghai native] noted. “But our demand for foreign TV shows will not go away.” [Source]

The Party seems less convinced of the need for foreign television programs and films. The last five-year plan because the film industry postulates that “the total leadership of the Party on film work” is essential for the country to become a “strong film power”. In a report on the rise of the Chinese film industry, state broadcaster CGTN noted that domestic films accounted for 80% of total Chinese box office revenue and that 60% fewer foreign films were released in 2021 than in 2019. This year, the patriotic blockbuster produced in the country The Battle of Changjin Lake has become The highest grossing film in China already. Critical comments for the film have been heavily censored on Chinese social media, and critics of the film are at risk of being arrested.

A number of Hollywood films that are expected to perform well in the Chinese market have had their releases delayed or sidelined. The Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings superhero film, which highlights dialogue in Mandarin, is one such unreleased film, possibly due to comments from leading man Simu Liu. on the history of China. At Variety, Rebecca Davis reported on a number of Marvel movies and Hollywood blockbusters that appear unlikely to be approved for release in China:

Officials have repeatedly pushed the break on shared revenue imported films since July, when they cleared the foreign films record to make way for propaganda films celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party.

The most notable of these are the three Marvel films “Black Widow”, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “The Eternals”, which have a minimal chance of reaching the Chinese big screen.

Other studio films submitted for approval with no release news so far include Warner Brother’s “Space Jam: A New Legacy” (US release: July 16) and “Reminiscence” (August 20). ), Disney’s “Ron’s Gone Wrong” (October 22) and “Encanto” (November 24); Sony’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (October 1); and Paramount’s “PAW Patrol” (August 20) and “Clifford the Big Red Dog” (November 10). [Source]

Even films unplanned for release in China have been targeted by state media. World times labeled Chloe Zhao’s Eternals was a wash of Japanese aggression during WWII, and asked oddly enough, “Why didn’t Zhao make a black gay superhero kneel down and burst into tears to apologize?” to Nanjing City? ” Zhao has previously been the target of nationalist backlash for an interview in which she said “there are lies everywhere” in China. He also published a highly critical report of Disney’s Christmas advertising, which featured a black man as the stepfather of two Asian children.

Hollywood studios often censor themselves to pave the way for smooth theatrical releases in China. John Cena’s Mandarin-language apology video earlier this year was just the most vivid example of Hollywood’s willingness to comply with Chinese censorship. The Atlantic’s Shirley Li explored the motivations behind Hollywood’s choices in a interview with James Tager of PEN America, who wrote the organization’s landmark Hollywood censorship report:

The Chinese government encourages this crippling effect by setting confused and ever-changing expectations, [James Tager, the research director at PEN America] said. Time travel accounts like Back to the Future were deemed “frivolous” and disrespectful of history, especially if such stories suggested the ability to alter reality. But 2012’s Looper, featuring scenes shot in Shanghai, with dialogue depicting China as a representation of the future, has passed censorship. A culture of trying to predict the country’s needs is now the norm: Stories portraying Chinese characters as antagonists or featuring disagreements with Beijing in areas like Tibet, Taiwan, and Xinjiang have been deemed banned. But China has also banned scenes from Bohemian Rhapsody, apparently for depicting same-sex relationships, and banned Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest altogether for including ghosts and cannibalism.

[…] Supplication, then silence: This is consistent with Hollywood’s broader advertising strategy when the hint of a China-related scandal pops up. “The reason no one wants to talk about it is that there is no benefit in talking about it,” Tager told me. “They want this problem to go away. ” [Source]

This form of censorship is costing audiences the world over. As Rebecca Davis of Variety Recount Axios’ Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: “Think about all the other kinds of ‘goodbyes’ we could have, and all the other kinds of fuss that could be made if information could flow more freely between the two countries … If there was not a risk of telling these stories with courage.


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