The Censors close in

China moves to control online music industry

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As a further post to our original article HERE, we report further on this newly announced move to regulate the distribution of music online.

China moves to control online music industry: state media

BEIJING, Sept 10, 2009 (AFP) – China has announced that every foreign and domestic song posted on music websites must receive prior approval, state media said Thursday, in the nation’s latest efforts to control online content.

Foreign music providers must also translate the lyrics of each song into Chinese under the new rules which go into effect on December 31, the official Global Times reported, citing a guideline announced by the culture ministry. In a statement sent to AFP, the ministry said the rules were necessary “to regulate the transmission of cultural information, guarantee the safety of the nation’s culture, and regulate public ethics.”
It said information that violated public morality or spread pornography and violence “continuously appeared” online, “seriously damaging the healthy development of China’s online cultural market.”

The ministry added the rules on songs aimed to “strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights, and to increase the market share of legal businesses and legal music products.”  A ministry spokesman told the Global Times that there would be a three-day “fast-track” system to gain permission to upload songs to the websites.

He also said content generated by Internet users — including songs composed, recorded or uploaded by individuals — would not have to go through the censorship process, according to the report.  China has at least 338 million Internet users, more than any other country in the world.  The government regularly blocks online content it deems unhealthy, which includes pornography and violence, but also information critical of the government, a censorship system dubbed the “Great Firewall of China.”

For more detailed analysis, see HERE.

For a word for word translation of the entire release (courtesy of R2G) HERE.

Our take: there are two ways to look at this.  One is that this is a solid effort from the Chinese government to actually crack down on the blatent abuses of copyright perpetuated by the likes of Baidu, who make money from advertising when searchers look for pirated files online. There have been comments that an already benighted Western music industry will look at China even less favourably.  There is no chance that this new policy will go anywhere near eliminating piracy in China, and so it will make international record labels much less willing to pay to have the lyrics of every song translated and vetted by the MoC.

According to a friend of this blog at Universal Music, this has been the case since ever.  To bring a Western Album into China, you must follow due process, getting lyrics translated and applying for a license.  What is new is the fact that every company distributing this material has to be authorised, which will certainly add to the control the Chinese bureaucracy will have over this industry, and will certainly mean smaller blogs and website will have to tread more carefully, which will snarl up the creative (read small) end of the market.  Now, only music that will shift significant units will be approved, which is a shame for the other end of the market.  More Britney, less Crystal Antlers.

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