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Sanctions? Make ‘Em Watch ‘Showgirls’

The U.S. government may have no alternative but to impose economic sanctions on China for its failure to enforce a year-old intellectual property rights protection agreement, said Jack Valenti, chairman and chief executive of the Motion Picture Association.

“Absent of the honoring of an agreement, what is the alternative (to sanctions)?,” Valenti said during a news conference in Beijing. “Maybe sanctions are not the answer, but what is?”

U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor said in February that China could face economic sanctions of up to $1 billion for its failure to enforce a bilateral agreement on protecting U.S.-made intellectual property goods such as computer software and music recordings.

Valenti said his industry is losing an estimated $150 million annually in sales in China because of illegal copying.

Valenti said the Chinese government has not done enough to implement the agreement, particularly in terms of opening the market to U.S. film products.

“It is impossible to really eradicate piracy until there is a legitimate market place,” Valenti said.

He also complained that average fines for illegal copying have only been about $4,000.

“This is lunch money to a pirate,” Valenti said.

At present China allows in about 10 films a year.

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