September 10, 2009 |
For quite a while I’ve been thinking about China as a sandbox where various procedures and measures of controlling everything that is online are practiced and polished – to see if they work or not at all. For now I think it is quite obvious that the measures don’t really work – no matter how hard the Chinese authorities try to control everything that the Chinese citizens can be exposed to online. After all, the only thing that they have managed to achieve is help proxy providers sell more of their premium services so that the smart Chinese users could still easily access all the sites they want – by pretending they are arriving from the US or some other country with no access denied.
Yet the Chinese government still does not seem to believe there are no limitations that cannot be avoided – and they have just come up with yet another limitation, this time for the online music industry. Starting late this year (December 31), all the songs that are intended to be sold online – domestic or foreign songs alike – will have to be granted approval from the authorities (following a 3-day examination period). And for such an approval to become a reality for a foreign-language song, the lyrics will also have to be translated to Chinese first so that the authorities have reasons to accept or decline such a song.
The move is told to be intended to protect Chinese culture and regulate ethics because music can be used to transmit porn and violence same as it can serve as a vehicle for all the good things in the world as well. And since the ministry of culture does not want to have the Chinese culture damaged by unhealthy foreign elements, the only way they know of is to add another regulation layer, this time targeted at online music in particular.
This move is also told to be intended to help fight piracy which is known to flourish in China but with every single song having to get an approval to be legal I don’t think that it will make life easier for those websites and entities trying to work in the online music market legally – while pirates selling those songs that are forbidden or simply have not passed the authorization process will have yet another reason for people to come to them looking for the music they want.
The good part is that user-generated content is not supposed to be affected so if you are simply distributing your music on MySpace without intending to sell it in China, you are probably safe – at least until the Chinese authorities change their mind on that particular part. But for those music services that already operate in China and make a portion of their revenue off the Chinese users, it will probably turn into a nightmare as bureaucrats always tend to make life way more difficult than they make it sound at first.
And of course the huge intrigue is what will happen to those songs that are already available to be purchased online in China. If all the existing songs have to pass the approval same as new arrivals will have to, it will obviously be interesting to see Chinese translators working on multiple albums of Beetles to prove they don’t advocate porn, violence or anti-government thoughts.