For the millions of users of VeryCD, quite possibly the leading file-sharing site in China, yesterday was renamed “Black Sunday”.
After providing access to a huge range of music, movies and TV shows since 2003, VeryCD pulled the plug on many of its links to illicit entertainment downloads.
“7 years of hard work and accumulation, that will now shut off, the end is the end. No one wanted this, but we had expected this moment would suddenly come,” said founder Huang Yimeng on the site’s official blog this weekend.
“Now all we can do is face the reality with courage. We must never give up – 2011 is our new starting point. Work! Hard!”
After avoiding a crackdown against many similar sites in 2008, the pressure on VeryCD in 2011 was clearly too much.
As reported earlier this month, China’s attempts at reducing copyright infringement have increasingly targeted the digital domain and while Youtube-like sites have taken up much of the spotlight, it was only a matter of time before linking sites like VeryCD felt similar heat.
Huang Yimeng confirmed that the mass deletions were prompted by urgent copyright infringement fears and that the site was forced to act sooner than it would have liked.
“Although we have been preparing for this event, the required adjustment was very urgent. This lead us to adjust rather quickly to delete the content of copyright-related disputes,” Huang Yimeng explained.
The urgency spoken of is almost certainly related to the fact that earlier this month the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security released a document which detailed penalties for online copyright infringement.
If someone uploads a movie, TV show, music, software or even image to the Internet without the consent of the copyright holder, penalties apply if certain conditions are met. These include if more than 500 pieces of the work are spread to others, if total online downloads hit 50,000 or if a site where the material is located has a signup membership of more than 1,000. Penalties are harsh – between 3 and 7 years in jail.
VeryCD is also keen to obtain an official license to operate and this move towards authorized content should help with that.
Users of VeryCD are understandably disappointed at the disappearance of so much content. But while one user complains that due to the mass deletions he will no longer be able to “get an understanding of the world” from his small city which has few cinemas, another, three comments down, posts a reply – containing a BitTorrent magnet link to the same content.