China's new restrictions on streaming overseas TV series and movies online took effect on Wednesday, amid concerns that this could increase piracy in the short term.
According to new regulations issued by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), all video streaming websites are required to have overseas movies and TV series they plan to host registered for broadcast licenses before Tuesday. Media not registered will not be allowed to be shown and will be removed from online platforms.
The SAPPRFT announced this rule in September 2014, which requires a central government review of all overseas TV series before they are allowed to be made available online in the Chinese mainland. Some have speculated that this review process may take months for each series.
"We encourage online audio and visual program providers to import, in an appropriate amount, cinema and TV works that are healthy, well-made and showcase good values so as to absorb fine cultural achievements across the globe," SAPPRFT said in the September announcement.
Many netizens have expressed disappointment at this news, as they will not be able to watch the new episodes of overseas TV series at the same time as people in other countries.
"It might push more people to download overseas TV series illegally as they cannot watch new episodes immediately," Zhang Peng, an associate professor of film at Nanjing Normal University told the Global Times.
"It is hard for video websites to protect our legal rights, since we own the copyright to stream overseas shows but we can only stream them about six months later under the new regulation," said an employee of a video website who asked for anonymity. "We plan to stream more domestic TV series and self-produced shows on our website to fill the gaps when our collection of overseas TV series could not be updated in time."
It usually costs over 1 million yuan ($159,900) to buy one episode of a popular foreign TV series, while buying an episode of a domestic production only costs hundreds of thousands of yuan, according to Zhang.