Dec 6, 2009

Chinese BT websites are shut down because of "No License"

The leading Chinese websites of BT sharing are shutting down since the beginning of December. BTChina (btchina.net), one of the most famous such sites, is totally shut down. And the rumour that its webmaster has been arrested was once widely spreaded. Yesterday, the webmaster of BTChina left a very brief message at the webpage:

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It says:

I have to clarify that ... the Radio, Film and Television Administration noticed me BTChina should be closed because the Register Serial Number of the Website (RSNW) is canceled by the Ministry of Industry and information Technology (MIIT). The reason of cancelling the Register Serial Number is BTCHINA has no "License for Dissemination of Audio-Visual Programs through Information Network" (LDAV). I am safe (not arrested). And this proved the online rumours are not reliable, especifically the news.


Not merely BTChina, many other well-known websites sharing  BT seeds are shut down since last week (read the story in Chinese at here). It is apparently that a campaign of cracking down online piracy has been kicked off by some Chinese central government officers, just following the compaign of shutting down pornographic wap sites for mobile phones.

Please, read the above story from a social-legal perspective. The compaign is obviously aiming at piracy. But the reason of shutting down those websites is not that they don't have copyright license, but that they don't have an administrative license of online dissemination of audio-visual programs issued by the government.

Although China has an Administrative License Law to restrict the pervasive application of it, the wide usage of licensing system can be parallel to the technical measures of GFW as the pillars of the Internet censorship. It is apparently that in China, proving a website "has no adminitrative license" is far easier than proving the content of that website "has no copyright license". When Chinese officers say "the government administers the Internet according to the law", they are saying mostly the licensing regulations, like the LDAV and the RSNW in the above story. In this circumstance, the copyright owners' best strategy of fighting piracy may not be filing the case to court, but reporting the authority that the targeted website does not obtain the license of disseminating Audio-Visual programs (or license of disseminating other contents).

I personally don't like such situation. But it is there, lively. That's why I say the free culture in China should not merely be the freedom of amateur using copyrighted works, but also be the freedom of disseminating information. This is the premise of discussing copyright issues. I mean, either in a soceity that the freedom of dissemination exist or in a soceity that it does not exist, the copyright law may survive. But the "copyright paradox" in these two contexts should be various.

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