Instead of Anti-Piracy, China Offers Music Censorship

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Groups like the IFPI have been struggling for years to contain piracy in China, a hopeless pursuit after numerous court trials.

But a sudden shift towards censorship could represent a second-best solution.  Just recently, the Chinese Ministry of Culture announced that all foreign music hosted online – including content from Hong Kong and Taiwan – must be approved for digital distribution by the government.

In details recently published online, the government described a problem of “undesirable imported online music, piracy, illegal links and a lack of management of market behavior,” essentially a policy of heavy censorship and anti-piracy enforcement.  Sounds ludicrous by Western standards, though the Ministry will require sites to submit for review all imported songs and lyrics – translated into Chinese.

Despite some measures for quickened approval, the oversight spells a bureaucratic nightmare, and a huge cost drain for companies.  On top of that, it remains unclear if filters and control can prevent songs from getting to Chinese music fans.  Instead, content like gangsta rap will mostly likely slip through the porous net.

Also unclear is whether this means a crackdown on services that offer free music – directly or through search result links – though the IFPI and RIAA are clearly hoping for that result.  That would create a serious problem for companies like Baidu, as well as consumers.  Virtually all music content is pirated in the country, according to those working within the region.