Is the honeymoon between Apple and China really over? After what seemed like the start of a beautiful, not to mention profitable, relationship, Apple has been hit with setback after setback in the notoriously impenetrable Chinese market. For this latest round, it is being sued by Movie Satellite Channel Program Production Center, a subsidiary of the country’s media regulator, for allegedly streaming a “propaganda” film hailing from 1994. The odd part is that Apple isn’t the one streaming the said film but simply one of the apps available from its iTunes App Store.
To be fair, Heyi Information Technology, a Beijing-based company, is also named in the lawsuit. Heyi develops the Youku HD app for a popular Chinese streaming service called Youku Tudou. The film in question is titled “Xuebo dixiao” and details the Chinese’ war against the Japanese back in he 1930s. Movie Satellite Channel Program Production Center claims to have exclusive streaming rights to the film and that this illegal streaming has caused it “huge economic losses.”
While it is somewhat puzzling why Apple’s name would be dragged into this lawsuit, it isn’t the first time the company has had a brush with China’s media regulators. Just a few months ago, Apple’s iTunes Movies and iBooks services went dark suddenly, apparently at the behest of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), Movie Satellite Channel Program’s parent organization. The reason was allegedly due to concerns over some of the content made available via those channels. While Apple is busy ironing out those issues, it is now hit with another lawsuit, this time not directly from its own services.
The incident does show that Apple has become a really large target in China. In addition to being in the regulatory hot seat, Apple has also been on the receiving end of trademark and patent lawsuits. Just recently, it almost had its iPhone 6 and 6s smartphones banned from sales after being found guilty of patent infringement. Fortunately for Cupertino, the injunction was put on hold pending further patent hearings.
Despite this, Apple is still intent on capturing the Chinese market, even as analysts report and predict a slowdown in the smartphone business. But Apple has also turned its eyes to India as a second lucrative option, though it is also facing some opposition there surrounding some of the country’s economic regulations.