China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), along with the National Copyright Administration of the People's Republic of China (NCAC) and the working group office of the national "Sweeping away Pornography and Cracking down on Illegal Publications" campaign, have issued a notice on strengthening the implementation of online game pre-approval and imported online game supervision. The notice, based on the State Council's "Three Regulations" on organizational reform and the recent clarification of the online gaming approval process issued by the State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform (SCOPSR), unambiguously states that games that operate without GAPP pre-approval or with unauthorized content added after the approval process will be ordered to cease operations.
The notice emphasizes that no organization or individual can operate an online game without undergoing GAPP pre-approval and receiving an Internet Publishing License, nor can the game go online.
The notice also emphasizes that foreign game companies are prohibited from investing in China-based online game operators as a sole owner, joint venture partner or cooperative partner. Foreign operators, the notice reiterated, cannot control or participate in domestic game-operating businesses indirectly through another investment company, signed agreements or by supplying technical support. Foreign companies are neither allowed to covertly control or be involved in domestic gaming operations by means of joint networks for user registration, account supervision or game card systems.
The notice further states that companies that have received pre-approval or an import permit must re-submit applications before modifying any content or releasing new editions, otherwise the existing license will be revoked, game operations will be halted and the company will be investigated for illegal online publishing. Serious offenders will lose network access and have their websites shut down.
Editor's Note: William Ding, CEO of Chinese online game operator Netease (Nasdaq: NTES), declined to comment on the notice. For more information on GAPP's role in the online game approval process, please see "China Clarifies Game Approval Process," MD 9/17/09 issue.