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UCLA Entertainment Law Review

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Fighting Chinese Censorship of U.S. Films by Denying Filmmakers U.S. Government Assistance: An Examination of the Proposed SCRIPT Act

  • Author(s): Timmer, Joel
  • et al.
Abstract

In order to distribute their films in China, U.S. filmmakers must submit them to Chinese censors for approval, which frequently require changes to films to portray China and the Chinese in a more favorable light.  Given the millions of dollars to potentially be made in the large Chinese market, filmmakers have been willing to comply with Chinese censors, and have even begun to censor themselves by anticipating China’s concerns and tailoring their films appropriately.  In this way, China is able to influence the way it is portrayed in films not just for audiences in China, but in the United States and around the world.  To combat the spread of Chinese propaganda in this way, Senator Ted Cruz introduced a bill, dubbed the SCRIPT Act, that would prohibit filmmakers from obtaining government assistance with their films unless they refrain from making changes to film content to accommodate the Chinese government.  This Article examines whether the SCRIPT Act, by denying government support to filmmakers based on the content of their films, violates the First Amendment.  While a bill might be crafted to do this in a way consistent with constitutional requirements, certain aspects of the SCRIPT Act make it likely to be unconstitutional.

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