China slaps copyright tax on Internet cafes

China's National Copyright Administration has has moved to extend copyright protections in the populous republic.

The CFCA said it intends to collect royalties from the screening of Chinese films in public places such as aeroplanes, public transport systems and Internet cafes.

Internet cafes are one of the few places in China where the majority of the population can get online. Under the new scheme these will effectively pay a copyright tax based on their size. There is nothing so sophisticated as a fee per downloaded film.

The People's Daily reported that the scheme will kick off at the beginning of January 2011 in eight municipalities and provinces, including the highly populated Beijing, Shanghai and Jiangsu.

A spokesperson for the CFCA said foreign films were not being targeted by the legislation. "We will consider including overseas movies in the copyright royalties collection mechanism," the official said. "It will not start in the near future".

Effectively, the body will charge copyright fee per Internet cafe. And rather than sort out which films are foreign and discover who the actual copyright owner is, it'll keep all the money itself - and worry about that later. If at all.

The CFCA said it expected to earn about 20 million yuan ($2.94 million) this year and 100 million yuan in 2013 from the scheme it cooked up all by itself.

Ninety percent of the tax would be distributed to the association members, a spokesman said. The rest it would keep as an administration fee.

It's what's known in the West as a nice little earner.