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China: Government shuts down BitTorrent sites, netizens distressed

Chinese Internet users are scrabbling for downloads from BitTorrent (BT) websites following speculation that authorities will completely shut them down.

The largest BitTorrent websites in China like BTCHINA, VeryCD and the Garden of Eden have been closed down or ordered to delete all links to downloaded films or TV series in the past week.

The State Administration of Radio Film and Television said BTCHINA did not have a licence to distribute audio and video content. “SARFT has deleted our site's registration and shut down our site,” a notice on the BTCHINA site said.

UUbird.com, a similar website, said in a notice it would delete all links for downloading TV series and films “to firmly support and comply with the state's laws and regulations”. 

It is said VeryCD went offline on Dec. 9 due to a technical failure. Rumors say Huang Xiwei, head of the website, got arrested a few days ago. A notice that appeared earlier this week on the website log-on page read service may resume Thursday noon. But users haven't  got access to that site up to now.

By now, authorities have shut down 414 video and audio websites for operating without a licence or for containing pornography, copyright-violating content or other “harmful” information. However, Chinese netizens say that often acts as cover for detecting and blocking sensitive political content.

Hundreds of BT users and netizens express their anger on Baidu message bulletin.  A guy named bearbingyang says:

如果说BTCHINA和VERYCD要封的话,那以下网站都要封。百度-呵呵,央视,中国广播网,新浪,QQ,迅雷,FLASHGET,华军,天空,等等,各种音像点播软件下载网站,总之大大小小,不计其数,全部都要封。理由只有一个:偶从没有对以上网站付一分钱。

If they shut down BTCHINA and VeryCD, then the follwing websites should also be closed: Baidu(lol), CCTV, Chinese National Radio, Sina.com, QQ, Xun Lei, FLASHGET, Huajun, Skycn and so on. There are countless radio and video sharing websites in China and they all should be shut down for one obvious reason: I have never paid these websites a penny. 

lv11832 thinks it is totally illeagal for SARFT to close down BitTorrent websites:

姑且不论btchina是否需要领取视听许可证!
互联网视听作品传播条例只规定了没有视听许可证不能提供视听服务,可没说到广电总局可以以没有视听许可证为由封杀网站!
一向视法律为废纸的广电总局,以为互联网也是他家的有线电视,疯狂违法乱纪。大家打死广电总局的人是没有任何错误的!因为广电总局本身就不遵守国家的法律,那么自然也不受国家法律保护!

Without reference to the necessity of holding the licence, the communication regulation of web video and audio productions only says it is unallowed to provide the on line users pirate video and audio service, but it doesn't mean that SARFT can shut down the websites that go against the regulation! SARFT disrespects laws and rules all along, regarding Internet  as its own cable TV.  It's not against the law if we killed the officials at SARFT, because the organization which's against the law won't get any protection from it.

huayaoxue says now BTchina have to give in to the government which means all the BT users are abandoned:

BTchina 随然属于几个人合作的小站点,但是IP访问量已远远大过其它站点。就拿广告费来讲,应该足以支付那个所谓10万的证了。试想一下,近几天如果BTchina想办理证书的话,咱们应该可以访问了。

Though BTChina is a small website created by several people, its daily IP visit number is way larger than other sites. Judging from the advertisement income, it's not that hard for them to pay for the licence, which will cost them a hundred thousand yuan. If they really intended to do so and get the licence, I think we should already have the access to the website now.

This author continues:

大家真不要小看了BTchina 这个所谓的个人网站,所谓的比特彗星正是黄希威所在的公司旗下开发的软件。我想如果黄希威本人或者他们那个团体想继续做这个网站的话,申请及办理那个证书的速度应该不会很慢的。如果一直没有动静,那表示BTchina 已经放弃了咱们,需要适应新的下载利器了。

So we should not look down upon BTChina, the so-called personal website. Bitcomet is a sofware created by Huang's company. I guess, if Huang and his company want to continue this software, it won't take so long to get that licence. Current condition implies that we have been abandoned by BTChina and need new widgets to download.

But gundam99999 doesn't agree. He thinks it is SARFT who abandoned us:

你怎么知道电驴,BT之家去申请了??
2000W注册资金,国有控股,就这两样99%的BT网站做不到.
就算申请下来,搞得和阳澄湖一样的网站,你还会去吗??

How do you konw that VeryCD and BTChina didn't apply for that licence? The registered funds will cost twenty million RMB and the company must become state-owned thereafter. 99% of BT websites can't do this. Given that they got the licence and became websites like Yangchenghu, will you pay a visit again?

But, who is the final winner of this Internet competition? Blogger Young Modern argues the shut down of BT websites will give rise to another boom of pirate DVDs:

未来大家想通过网络BT下载免费的影视歌资源,将变得越来越难。对此,不少网友惋惜。更有人称,最终得益的其实是盗版商,不久后,已经快被互联网取代的盗版碟肯定又将死灰复燃。

And it will be incerasingly harder for us to get free BT resources. Some netizens regret about this saying that the pirate businessmen receive all the benefits and will surely revive.

The famous blogger Wuyuesanren agrees with this author, but he adds, as a matter of fact, that SARFT is not only helping pirate business but also against the spirit of free sharing: 

网络社会自从诞生的第一天起,共享的精神就贯穿其中,版权法如何在这个新的时代也进行进化,一直是一个大问题。但无论怎么进化,正如信息交流的闸门一旦打开之后,想关上是不可能的那样,网络共享的版权管理也是应该以适合网络特点的疏导为主,直接堵塞并不是好的方式。

Since the birth of Internet society, it grows and develops with the spirit of sharing. And how to revise the copyright law accordingly, is a tough question. Whatever happens, it is impossible to shut it up once the door of communication opens. The management of on line copyright is a question about circulation instead of block.

He then says we need a more open Internet environment:

要是最后的效果是使得盗版光碟大行其道、中国互联网成为联不通之网,不但背离了互联网的精神,也背离了社会发展的方向。这种情况,相信有司也是不愿意见到的吧。所以,作为一个资深的网民,我不想提前怀念那些带给我无数快乐时光的网站,而是希望看到一个更开放、更有益的互联网环境。

If we finally see the revival of pirate DVDs and the Internet in China becomes non-communicative, I can say it disobeys the orientation of our society and the essence of Internet. This, I'm afraid, is not what the government want to see. Therefore, as a senior netizen, I'm not going to mention about the websites that I share my big-time with. What I hope to see is a more open, more helpful Internet environment.

A more open environment for the Chinese netizens? Blogger soulxtc doesn't expect anything like that:

Either way, I still think the real motive behind the effort is to pull BitTorrent sites back into the fold of content regulation, and that copyright infringement and porn are being used as guises to mask their true intention – censorship. Stay tuned.

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