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Censorship, copyrights and constraints.

A series of entertainment laws skillfully enacted by all Asian countries are meant to serve political purposes as well as economic and social ones. In addition, what in the West is seen as lax copyrights laws or strict censorship, are in effect ways to discourage outside market forces.

Recently, according to Foreign Affairs, American and European companies in South Korea complained that the country's law for protecting copyrights continues to be largely unenforceable if the injured party is not Korean.

This in spite of a South Korean announcement that a series of measures have been taken to protect intellectual property rigths from the United States in order to resolve Korean-U.S. friction.

Last February, a total of 1.6 million music discs and videos, illegally copied in violation of U.S. copyrights, were seized in South Korea. A very energetic showing indeed. It should be pointed out, too, that in South Korea there is growing fear that the home video market will be dominated by Japanese firms operating under the guise of U.S. film companies. Discouraging foreign imports is, therefore, highly desirable from the Korean point-of-view.

A more stringent and official protection is being enacted toward cable TV. South Korea is envisaging 116 cable systems throughout the country (21 in Seoul alone). The government, though, is limiting foreign programming and foeign investments.

Taiwan, too, can show its goodwill with flamboyance.

Not long ago in Taipei, hundreds of video show owners demonstrated to demand that the U.S. "ease" its pressure on Taiwan to crack down on film piracy. Basically, the government was showing the world that it was doing its job.

More ominous than copyright law loopholes, however, is Asia's universal tool of censorship. In Taiwan, article 34 of the proposed cable TV law stipulates that cable TV programs may not abuse the nation's interest or ethnic dignity. Also, article 36 requires that cable TV programs be first screened by the Government Information Office. Meanwhile, reception of satellite programs and cable TV systems will remain illegal until the cable TV Law is passed by Taiwan's legislature. But, even though cable TV is illegal, the country's 300 or so cable TV operators are regulated by a law that prevents them from pirating foreign programs (under the penalty of a US$1,200 fine and seven years in prison). It's like saying "you're illegal only when we decide you are." By the way, when cable TV will be formally legalized in Taiwan, the government envisions just 61 franchises.

In Hong Kong, last year police seized some 13,000 videos under the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance. This rule, amending all bill of the Film Censorship Ordinance, allows fines of US$26,000 and 12 months in prison for video store owners who rent or sell category III (adult) films to minors. A new team of Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA) has been formed to patrol video outlets. Recently TELA wanted to cut eight minutes of a 10-minute award-winning film which was previously screened in Hong Kong uncensored.

In Singapore, new rules now finally exempt home videos of sports and documentaries from censorship. Also exempt are recordings of weddings and holidays. Furthermore, since last April, advertising and production houses no longer need to be licensed to produce video programs. Call it progress!
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Title Annotation:in the Far East
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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