On March 30, 2009, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) released the Circular on Strengthening the Administration of the Content of Internet Audio-Visual Programs to the local departments of radio, film and television.

The Circular applies to the service entities that provide audio-visual programs over the internet (Service Entities). The Circular, which follows the Administrative Provisions on Internet Audio- Visual Program Services, largely reiterates the contents of the Provisions. For example, the Circular emphasizes that Service Entities may not include the various types of content listed under Article 16 of the Provisions in their internet audiovisual programs. Specifically, the Circular requires Service Entities take immediate action to edit or delete audio-visual programs that contain any of the following elements: distortion of history, denigration of the army, police or legal system, advocacy of superstition, vulgarity, intrusion of privacy, or other content that violates public policy or social values. The Circular also stipulates that domestic and foreign films, plays, cartoons and documentaries that are not appropriately licensed may not be transmitted over the internet.  

In addition, the Circular calls attention to Article 15 of the Provisions in urging Service Entities to improve their copyright protection systems, abide by the provisions of laws and regulations that apply to copyright, and take steps to protect copyrighted material and the legitimate rights and interest of copyright holders.  

Though the Circular is indicative of SARFT’s inspection policy with respect to the content of internet audio-visual programs, it does not specify what consequences Service Entities may face if they violate the Circular’s provisions. Ultimately, Service Entities should look to the Provisions, not just the Circular, for guidance.