Monday, April 30, 2007
the pro-piracy case
A cover of a Chinese pirate copy of The Piano, hinting at a flirty, contemporary plot strand I must have missed in the original.
Danwei covers an interesting story; the US TV show 'Prison Break' is only available on pirated DVDs in China but it's been such a hit a Chinese company has paid Fox US $1.2 million for the rights to make an online Chinese language film version. (Xinhua's note on this here .).
The thing to remember here is that 'Prison Break' isn't going any where near mainstream Chinese media in its original form. A little-guy-against-the-big-corrupt-system story does not sit well with the Chinese censors (as discussed in the Danwei report) and this new Chinese version has to reinterpret the story into a corporate setting to make it acceptable. This sort of censorship is a big barrier to foreign cultural imports, even if the material is innocuous the clearance process can be painstakingly slow, and god help anything with more 'difficult' themes. This means even mainstream shows like Prison Break only have a future in pirated channels (off and online) for the foreseeable future. In these circumstances piracy in China, or at least 'cultural' piracy of films, TV, music and literature provide a valuable channel for ideas and creativity that otherwise wouldn't be allowed. Plus, as this illustrates, it needn't mean that money can't come back to the producers, just that it will take a more inventive and flexible approach to revenue. This cultural piracy can also create demand for mechadise and equities that are out on the market legally; how many of the Chinese mainlanders visiting Hong Kong's Disneyland were inspired to go after years of watching pirated Disney discs?