Mandelson slams Beijing for not collecting royalties

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BRUSSELS -- China must clamp down on illegal broadcasts of foreign music, movies and television shows, European Union trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said in Beijing on Wednesday.

Mandelson slammed Beijing for failing to ensure China's state television and karaoke bars pay royalties to European copyright holders. "Chinese broadcasters like CCTV do not pay royalties," he said.

Chinese law provided for such payments since 2001 but no fees have ever been set and no royalties ever enforced. Mandelson said Chinese promises that the law would be clarified by the end of 2006 have now been rescinded. "'I would like to see a strong public declaration by the Chinese government that they want to see the appropriate royalty payments being made in the future," he said.

Mandelson -- who raised the issue of copyright violations with Chinese commerce minister Bo Xilai and Vice Premier Wu Yi -- said much more was needed to criminalize counterfeiting-related offenses, often neglected by local police and courts. He called for lower thresholds for prosecutable intellectual property offenses, tougher sentencing of offenders, and action in cleaning up street markets.

China was the source of more than half the counterfeit goods seized at EU borders in 2005. Mandelson said piracy in China is not only a "huge drain" on European competitiveness but also hurts China itself. China's film and music industry is crippled by intellectual property theft, and the government says about 80% of IP rights lawsuits are filed by Chinese companies.

Earlier, European officials signed an agreement to provide technical help to a newly established network of 50 government offices throughout China that will receive and investigate complaints of copyright violations.

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