The Association of American Publishers has expressed concern to the U.S. Trade Representative and to the Chinese Embassy, asking for "clarification" of Chinese foreign rights policy after that government seized and invalidated 35 rights contracts between U.S., U.K. and Chinese publishers that had been negotiated by foreign literary agents.
According to Nisha Vora, deputy director of copyright and technology at AAP, the Tuttle-Mori agency, which represented the bulk of the seized contracts, notified the AAP about an abrupt change in Chinese rights policy that could prevent foreign literary agents from operating in China. Vora told PW that while foreign agents have negotiated rights contracts in the past, the National Copyright Administration in Beijing recently informed Tuttle-Mori that it will not accept contracts for foreign authors to license Chinese-language publishing rights negotiated through a third party; that the NCA will not recognize world rights; that foreigners seeking to license Chinese rights must be registered with the NCA; and that the NCA will not recognize contracts that mention third-party agents.
The NCA also seems to have a Catch-22: although the Chinese agency allows rights agents to register to become approved, only local Chinese firms are eligible to register. The AAP, said Vora, is concerned that the policy changes will impede free trade and disrupt established business relations. Vora told PW that it appears that the Chinese want all rights to be negotiated through the official copyright agency. However, she said, "We're trying to get information on what they require. We need guidelines."