China appeals WTO ruling on US media imports

China appealed an August World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling Tuesday, arguing that Chinese controls on US imports of books, music, and audiovisual materials do not violate international trade regulations. The dispute originally arose in April 2007 when the US filed a complaint over Chinese restrictions allowing certain state-owned companies to reserve the right to import types of entertainment media, effectively forcing US companies to conduct business with only those business channels.

The complaint also challenged market access restrictions on foreign service providers. The WTO held that while China may still censor certain media content, it may not use censorship as a justification for barriers on trade. The WTO appellate body will have two to three months to scrutinize the case, after which it will decide to confirm, modify, or overturn the ruling.

The August ruling was the latest result in the struggle for intellectual property rights between the US and China. In January, a dispute settlement panel of the WTO found for the US that large parts of China's intellectual property scheme are inconsistent with its obligations under several international treaties, including the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The panel's findings came as the result of a process initiated against China by the US in August 2007 for alleged lax enforcement of copyright and trademark violations. The panel's report concluded that certain provisions of China's copyright law as well as certain Chinese customs measures are inconsistent with TRIPS because they "nullify or impair benefits accruing to the United States."

(Published by Jurist - September 23, 2009)


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