China Shuts Down 290 Websites in Piracy Crackdown

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China says that a campaign running since the summer has resulted in the closure of 290 copyright-infringing websites. Fines have also been handed down over the illegal downloading of movies and games with 33 cases ending up in court. Meanwhile, the United States has called out China over other 'pirate' venues that remain open.

piratekayOn July 12, China’s State Copyright Administration and four other departments launched “Jian Wang 2016”, a program designed to crack down on Internet-based intellectual property infringement.

According to the government, JW2016 targeted the “unauthorized illegal spread” of film and television works, news and other digital literature in order to protect the rights and interests of rightsholders. The program also aimed to further regulate online music and cloud storage services.

The cloud storage impact was felt immediately, with many providers choosing to “voluntarily” close down in the face of government allegations of illegal activity. In October, one of the largest, Qihoo 360, said it would cease offering accounts to private citizens due to the service being used to spread pirated content and other “illegal information” which inflicted “huge harm on society”.

In a statement on the closure, the government said that Qihoo 360 will wipe all user data by February 2017, a move which reflects how much importance the “360 group of companies’ attach to the protection of copyright works.”

This week, China’s National Copyright Administration announced new successes achieved by JW2016 during a five-month period. According to the department, the authorities handled 514 cases of online copyright infringement between July and November. Fines equal to almost $467,000 were handed down.

Others received a harsher treatment. According to the government, a total of 290 websites said to have engaged in Internet piracy were shut down. None of the sites said to have been closed are named in China’s official announcement.

“The State Copyright Administration has also supervised four batches of a total of 31 cases of copyright infringement, granting subsidies to local cases of more than 1.5 million yuan ($216,000),” the Administration said.

“At home and abroad, Jian Wang 2016 has had a very good effect. The initial results of copyright management on the Internet has greatly improved the environment for copyright and laid good foundations for further action.”

While China says it’s making progress on the copyright enforcement front, that hasn’t stopped it from being criticized by the United States.

In this week’s “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets”, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) mentioned China in connection with a number of sites offering either pirate or counterfeit content, including the little-known-in-the-West ‘Beevideo’.

“BeeVideo is an application that facilitates the viewing of allegedly infringing movies and television shows on smart TVs through set-top boxes, and on mobile devices,” the USTR said.

“The app is available through the BeeVideo.tv website portal. BeeVideo has been downloaded more than 12 million times and once downloaded allegedly provides unlimited unauthorized access to infringing content. The developer and operator of BeeVideo is allegedly based in China.”

The USTR also called out China over Nanjing Imperiosus, a company that allegedly provides domain name registration services to around 2,300 illegal pharmacies. In a comment Thursday, the EFF said that while there may be issues with the sites themselves, domain registrars don’t host any content.

“It’s true that domain names can sometimes point to content deemed unlawful, but so too, ironically, does the Notorious Markets List—as well as this blog post, for that matter,” the EFF said.

“Enforcing content laws against intermediaries who merely point to unlawful information is a never-ending and misdirected quest, in which freedom of expression is an inevitable casualty.”

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