When the MPAA came out with its annual report
about the movie market worldwide, it showed that China was a huge growth market. However, now it appears that perhaps some of that growth was the result of Hollywood studios bribing Chinese officials
. For years, China has limited how many Western movies can be released in the country. While Hollywood loves to decry all of the "piracy" in China, much of it is due to the fact that the movies can't
be released there under the law. That's a situation where the problem is not piracy, nor the MPAA itself (even as it whines about Chinese piracy), but local laws. However, there has been a loosening of those restrictions lately -- and the SEC is exploring whether or not that came about due to bribes from the studios:
The Securities and Exchange Commission has sent letters of inquiry to at least five movie studios in the past two months, including News Corp's 20th Century Fox, Disney, and DreamWorks Animation, a person familiar with the matter said.
The letters ask for information about potential inappropriate payments and how the companies dealt with certain government officials in China, said the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the letters.
That said, there is an interesting tidbit in the Reuters article about all of this, that really serves to highlight how ridiculous the MPAA's fight against "piracy" is. It shows that despite the fact that piracy is rampant for Hollywood movies -- once the MPAA was able to get legit movies into the country, people flocked
to the theaters. In other words, despite the cheaper pirated options -- or even free options -- people have no problem paying for the legit product when it's offered in a quality fashion:
China's booming middle class is increasingly willing to pay tickets prices for a cinema experience, forgoing cheap pirated DVDs and free internet downloads.
Once again, this seems to demonstrate why the problem is not piracy. If consumers are offered what they want in a reasonable manner, they are more than willing to pay -- and the Hollywood studios seem to recognize this implicitly (which is why they may have bribed Chinese officials to release authorized versions in that market, even with "piracy" being so common).