China: No more free lunch, even at here?

Easy, convenient; enormous collection of resources, and a platform upon which users share what they love directly with one another — the P2P (peer-to-peer) technology brew the power to upgrade the internet to the next generation, the conventional portal website, the collective dormitory, to the more luxury and individual apartment, and surely has it found its place in China’s growing online industry.

Xunlei (meaning thunderbolt) Co Ltd, a Shenzhen based networking company, has played a leading role of the P2P industry since 2006. Accordingly, over 100 million Chinese internet users have been used to turning on their computers along with this tiny software, a few MB large, to drag down sea of online resources to the hardware, and in an exceeding speed. However, due to the limited constraint, if not an aid, the pirate videos and music take the majority of the exchanged content, which is exactly the reason on 15, Feb that Motion Pictures Association, on behalf of its six member companies such as Paramount and Sony, filed civil complaints in Shanghai against Xunlei over copyright infringement.

It immediately arrested the attention of millions of Chinese internet users, who more or less have enjoyed the free musics, videos, and downloading. As a recent official report indicates, more than half Chinese users surf online for entertainment. That’s why blogger Kang Guoping explained people’s concern over the incident as this:

We are all worrying that once the foreigners win the lawsuit, they would be interested in going deeper, one after another, so that much of our entertainment would be gone.

Guilty or Not, is it important?

At the very beginning, the controversy weirdly went beyond the lawsuit itself, partly due to the sensitive terms U.S (MPA, U.S based) and China (Xunlei, China based), and the aftereffect of thetrade conflict between the two powers.

The essay “Xunlei sued becasue of being too powerful” commented:

The same as the fidget brought to America by China’s leaping economy, the growing internet industry here again upset Uncle Sam. Being the leader of P2P industry in China, Xunlei is the most vulnerable target under the attack from America. The series of trade conflicts these years has extended to the internet.

The writer yelled at the end of his article: “Being the Chinese netizens with conscience, we support Xunlei to win the case with both feet. We have to guard our national interest!”

Another widely circulated essay by Liu Xingliang, a famous IT blogger, moreover unreservedly called the legal action “A 2nd Burning of the Imperial Palace.”

Tool Theory and the Story of Baidu

A more credible argument based its point on that Xunlei is but a platform provider, without the ability to discern and prohibit the rampant piracy going upon the platform. Zhou Xinning argued in his blog:

I stand against piracy. But it’s notable why Xunlei was sued just being a downloading tool? If a thief steals with a pincher, then who are you going to prosecute? The pincher-maker or the thief? The pincher is nothing but a tool. It is the linked third-party websites that provide piracy, while Xunlei itself has done nothing to violate the copyrights, but to supply information service. The software company has helped internet users to quickly download what they desire for, and a tool can hardly recognize, predict and control the legitimacy of those videos.

In the announcement of MPA, it also admits that Xunlei “facilitates”, rather than makes the “pirate films hosted on various systems spread across the internet”.

The amazing downloading speed brought by Xunlei indeed makes people addictive. Once you are to download certain resources, either sofware, video or music, Xunlei would automatically find you various source-points available(5 to 60), then simultaneously driving down the desired stuff to you.

Moreover, once you have downloaded the desired stuff, you, will also be added to be a new node of the source-points, which therefore grow exponentially. During the course, Xunlei “seems” to have just indexed the material.

And it is the “Tool Theory”, exactly, that helped Baidu, the leading search engine in China beat on court the 7 international record labels, Universal, Sony BMG, and Warner included, which sued it for aiding piracy in 2007. And two of the companies have even turned around after the sentence, seeking cooperation with Baidu. It’s not likely to be wise to fight against the rooted habits of Chinese users who have taken the music downloading (free!) as their No.1 usage of the internet, according to an investigation. That's also why experts interpreted that the movie companies sued Xunlei this time just for a chip for future cooperation deal.

Lunch should cost
“How awesome is nationalism!” In 18 Feb, reviewing some comments above, the blogger Liu Huafang at last exclaimed in his article “Prize Xunlei for being sued?“.

Should Xunlei be regarded as legal because it’s a domestic enterprise? So terrible is nationalism, that it can confuse right and wrong. Is it so hard to just make it the way it is? Should a man, who saw his wife out of red-light district, tell that she was doing good to GDP?

And Zhan Keli commented:

If Xunlei just performed like a P2P provider, I believe no one would sue it. But on its homepage and the desktop of the software, you can clearly discover alluring information such as “Here you can find Moive A, here Movie B!” And they might say, “Fine, there is nothing to do with me if you download pirate stuff, since I only tell about their information. But as we cooperate with Google, we can send you a free searching button, and once you click it, you’ll get what you desire for.

He struck back the “thief and pincher analogy”:

Of course, I would catch the thief rather than the pincher-maker. But what if the maker sends a note that teaches you how to steal along with the pincher? Should he be caught?

To testify, I entered the Xunlei homepage, and immediately found movies, music and sitcoms indexed in apple-pie order, headlines, descriptions and user comments attached. You can search out desired movies, from the very old to quite lately, National Treasure 2 and 1st Blood 4 for example, and download them, or, you can watch them online, but have to first install Xunlei Kankan, a specific software.

A more in-depth analyse was given by Justso. He slashed Xunlei on both its business mode and technological core. He first derided the saying that MPA members sued Xunlei for future cooperation.

99% material running on Xunlei’s platform is pirate. Cooperate to help distribute legal copies? Once the pirates were swept out, 99% clients of Xunlei would vanish.

In Baidu vs. record labels, the judgement favored Baidu because of the law standard adopted. But Justso said, even under such a standard, the Xunlei one year ago must have to be illegal.

Xunlei adopted its special P2P protocol of transmission, a patent it developed, and thus all XUnlei downloading should be conducted by Xunlei software. It doesn't have openness at all, and cannot apply the reason Baidu has used to debate, as the latter uses http protocol.

Then, Justso revealed Xunlei’s recent project to avoid copyright-related litigations. Obviously, he stated, Xunlei tried to copy Baidu’s success. It built a new search engine called Gougou.

Before the Gougou was constructed, Xunlei is an indefinite provider of pirates, but along with the occurrence of Gougou, the web page from which you download turn into the search results of Gougou, and the protocol of all the resources has also changed into http and ftp, both the public protocols. The links are directed to unknown downloading stations, which have apparently nothing to do with Xunlei.

And Xunlei, in addition, provides blog service. The users can set up blogs first to issue the resources.

As Justso pointed out, after searching out results on Gougou, I can find http links directed to a great many little, distributed websites. And beside the link, a Copyright Protection Statement is attached, which allow the copyright owners to demand Xunlei to remove the illegal stuff. But it also allowed the resource providers to “anti-demand”, to recover the removed material, if they allege to have the right. And Xunlei clearly declare it would take no responsibility if any side tells lie.

As bloggers said, Xunlei forces the copyright owners to face numerous download stations, itself staying aside. The difficulty of right-claim actions would be huge.

Justso elaborated on Xunlei’s plan:

Xunlei imitates Baidu to distribute the files and URLs to thousands of little websites, but meanwhile expects to control these websites, forcing them to collaborate, and at the next step forces the copyright owners to give up litigations and to work together.

By this method, Xunlei convenes the power and traffic of P2P ,Bt, and piracy.

The future

Why is Xunlei prospering? Justso explained:

“Since the establishment of Xunlei, not many download stations have not been shut down for several times and turned into underground. Download tools and sharing softwares have gone through this too. E-donkey, wareZ, and MovieZ have also been shut down or sued in Europe and U.S. But for every time Xunlei escaped this, and as the only survivor, it developed another large group of users.

He concluded, many foreign investors favor Xunlei particularly for its ability on both technology and the local government's protection.

That’s why observers said Xunlei was sued in Shanghai rather than Shenzhen, for that the place matters.

Who will win the game ultimately? The rooted, native magnate or the international labels?

Born with the original sin of spreading piracy, would P2P finally find its way out? As the fire has burned to right outside the door, China seems to be no longer their paradise. No one can tell who will win, particularly that at the eve of Olympics, the country is facing a choice of fame and its industry.

as Zhao Keli said:

Chinese enterprises have to be not only powerful, but to be able to win the respect of users and opponents as well.

Could that be reached?

(Blog quotes all translated from Chinese and bloggers quoted all native Chinese. The rest part original)


  • Myo Thu

    China No More Dignity. China is Evil.
    Boycott Beijing Olympics!
    China support Myanmar junta’s killing people.
    China’s administration is evil.
    Not deserve to be held Olympics.
    If Olympics held in China, Olympics is also evil.

  • Thx for your translations! I am
    Fighting against pirate is also great benefit for health of chinese Internet property.

    And I am not sure MPA will win deservedly, as I know, XunLei has signed up some small fake companies for fake copyright, if losing MPA’s lawsuit, Xunlei will bankrupt the small companies and survive.

  • Chee Than Shwe

    No free at everywhere.
    You want to get my gas free or cheap?
    Free and cheap in terms of money.
    But you lose your man of principles.
    China is recognized as China can do everthing including supporting murderer Myanmar junta or supporting killing people.

  • Justso, welcome! So great to see an original author here. Hope my translation keeps up with your ideas.

    @Chee Than Shwe, Myo Thu
    Please. Colonial invasion came before the prosperity of Britain; the massacre over Indians brought wealth and power to Spain; the treasure in China was transported to Japan by the means of war. They are direct, unreserved and vast violence.
    What has China done? Evidences presently held out by different organizations have not 100% clarify China’s responsibility over those killings.

    Regarding pirates, yes, I agree we have to understand the value of copyright and intellectual products. Pirate and plagiarizing hurt Chinese culture and creativity much.

  • […] China: No more free lunch, even at here? (Global Voices Online) […]

  • Myo Thu

    I already said, China do everything including supporting murder’s Burmese junta. China is not good neighbour of Burma.
    Publicly China say they never involve neighbour countries’ internal affairs. Why Chinese support and sending military trucks to Burma junta? Recently 500 cars. In total many many support to facilitate Burmese junta’s pressing over our people.
    China can even support murderers. Why not China doing Thieves works such as violating copyrights? It’s China’s minor works ha ha. One day we should BOYCOTT CHINA’s PRODUCTS seriously.

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