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5.1 Background Information


The People's Republic of China is one of the last five communist statuses in the world. It is governed by the Communist Party of China under a single-party system. The PRC government is considered to be authoritarian by most public media due to its special social system. The authority constitutes weighty restrictions in many areas, remarkably in freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and reproductive rights. Since the Chinese economic reform was introduced in the late-1970s, China has constructed a progress in liberalization. Nevertheless, it still cannot be compared with other democratic countries like Europe and North-America.  In the past few years, the PRC government has been trying to make great efforts in improving China's policies and laws, which are described to be unfledged, in order to keep up with the pace of globalization. During this process, the impact of Information Communication Technology cannot be ignored. ICT is a useful and powerful tool which can help the implementation of the policies and laws made by the government. On the other hand, the public voice can also affect the constitution of the policies and laws via ICT.

5.2 Censorship

After the popularization of Internet, many concerns have been brought up. People can upload anything they like onto the Internet and express themselves on the Internet through any way they prefer. Therefore, many resources containing negative information may appear on the Internet. In order to promote the development of national security and social stability, the PRC government tries to control this condition from two different aspects. One aspect is from the technology side, which aim is to build the most powerful censorship system to shield and block unwanted information on the websites. The other method is through legislation.

5.2.1  Technology

The Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China constructed the Golden Shield Project, which is also known to people outside of China as the Great Firewall of China. This project, which started in 1998, aims to establish a communication network and computer information system for police to enhance their efficiency. IP blocking and filtering are two common methods of censorship. IP blocking means that access to some IP addresses is repelled. Filtering usually contains DNS filtering, URL filtering and Packet filtering. Firstly, DNS filtering, which is also known as redirection, does not resolve domain names or return wrong IP addresses. Secondly, URL filtering aims to scan the requested Uniform Resource Locater (URL) string for target keywords regardless of the domain name specified in the URL. Lastly, Packet filtering works in such a way that when a certain number of controversial keywords are detected, the system will terminate TCP packet transmissions.

5.2.2  Legislation

In September 2000, Beijing spelled out the first content restrictions and thus, the State Council Order No.292 was constructed. It prohibited different types of content from websites, discussion forums and bulletin boards, containing any information that "harms the dignity and interests of the state" or disturbs social order. Nowadays, China-based websites cannot be linked to news websites built abroad with liberty. In addition, they also cannot transport news from overseas media without approval.

5.2.3  Blocking Content


  •  Internet became prevalent within a very short time. At the same time, plenty of pornography websites appeared on the Internet. In order to control this condition, the PRC government carried out the Clearing Obscene and Eroticism Information Action. The IP addresses of Pornography websites were blocked to prevent people from viewing them. Furthermore, some founders of pornography websites were charged and sentenced by the Chinese court. This action which was implemented at two levels made great influence on curbing the dissemination of pornography.


  • A study shows that the PRC government blocks internet websites on democracy, issues with regards to Taiwan and Tibet and other sensitive topics most frequently. Some news sources websites are blocked because they often cover some taboo topics which are related to China's policy.
    • In March 2008, PRC government tried to block BBC News and CNN, because these websites contained some sensitive reports about Tibet 314 riot. At that special time, people in China could not access these websites at all.


  • Chinese search engines, such as Baidu and Google China are also affected by censorship. Researchers at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center checked more than 204,000 websites, identified through search engines Google and Yahoo!. They found more than 19,000 websites inaccessible some of the time. This study also showed that the top 10 Google results using the keywords "Tibet", "Taiwan China" and "equality" were all blocked. During some special periods that were related to politically sensitive events, people could not find any information about these controversial issues on the search engines.
    • The Olympic torch relay in France was a very controversial event in 2008 as Carrefour was involved in this event. At that time, people could not obtain any information about Carrefour on Baidu.


  • Besides all the above, blogs, discussion forums and bulletin boards were all targeted via various methods under the censorship system. Once sensitive keywords were detected in anybody's free comments or articles, those data and information would be deleted automatically by the servers of the websites.


  • This chart shows the ratio of websites blocked in China by Google search engine.
                              Sources:   By Christy Herring and Ellie Morris. From http://www.duke.edu/~dgm4/ethics 
       
     

5.3 Copyright issues

The protection of intellectual property rights in China is generally considered to be insufficient. The lack of education for some people leads to them being oblivious to the fact that infringement is illegal. The PRC government faces acute difficulties regarding copyright issues related to ICT.

5.3.1  Current Condition

   The chart below indicates where the piracy rate is highest (2004).

         
                                                                                                                          Chart1.The Piracy Rate

China is one of the countries that has the highest piracy rate in the world. The PRC government and many companies in China have taken measures to control the problem of piracy. The BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study in 2007, which covers piracy of all packaged software that runs on PCs, indicates that China's piracy rate has been hovering at around 82% for a second year after dropping by 10 points over the last three years. This study also points out that the losses due to piracy has indeed rose sharply last year, thus the piracy issue in China is still severe.  





5.3.2  Impacts

Owning pirated music and pirated software in China is a commonplace, which makes consequential impacts on many aspects. The table below estimated the huge losses in trade due to piracy (in millions of U.S. dollars) and levels of piracy: 1997-2002.  

Industry

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

 

Loss/Level

Loss/Level

Loss/Level

Loss/Level

Loss/Level

Loss/Level

Motion Pictures

120/75%

120/90%

120/90%

120/90%

160/88%

168/91%

Sound Recordings

150/56%

80/56%

70/90%

70/85%

47/90%

48/90%

Business Software Applications

987.9/96%

808.4/95%

437.2/91%

765.2/93%

1140.2/92%

1593.3/93%

Entertainment Software

1,409.4/96%

1,420.1/95%

1,382.5/95%

NA/99%

445.0/92%

NA/96%

Books

125.0/NA

125.0/NA

128.0/NA

130.0/NA

130.0/NA

40.0/NA

TOTALS

2,309.3

2,792.3

2,553.5

2,137.7

1,085.2

1,506.6

 

Sources: Compiled from 2003, 2002 and 2001 IIPA Special 301 Reports, People's Republic of China (pp. 19, 32 and 26, respectively).   

The infringement of intellectual property rights not only leads to huge trade losses, but also restricts the development of high technology and the popularization of distinctive culture. Artists make much effort to produce their albums and companies use money and manpower to employ groups of programmers to develop softwares. The rampancy of piracy is a blow to artists and takes its toll on the profits of the companies. Moreover, piracy leaves a negative impression on foreign investors, which directly reduces the investments from other countries.

   

5.3.3  Reasons

Since China entered the reformed period in the late-1970s, economy and many other aspects have been growing at a rapid speed and China is enjoying a boom. However, some negative effects have been brought up at the same time due to overlooking of some details in development. There are three main factors that are responsible for the high piracy rate.

  •    Perception gap

The population base in China is so large that the government finds it very difficult to control. Therefore, education about intellectual property cannot be popularized. Most Chinese people are unaware of what they do when they download piracy music and software from the Internet. This perception towards intellectual property is very general and common in both urban and rural areas. The good news is that an increasing number of people in China know the significance of banning piracy. However, if we want to see the obvious change of people's perception, there is still a long way to go.

  •    Wealth gap

Rapid explosion of economy leads to an imbalance wealth gap. Therefore, people in rural areas would choose to buy or download pirated softwares, in order to save cost. There is a common phenomenon in some small towns in China whereby people cannot find any copyright softwares or albums in their region. This problem is persistent due to the existence of wealth gap.

  •     Lack of official control

The battle against piracy in China actually started a few years ago. Several years ago, the authority did not pay enough attention to this problem, thus many ways to access pirated softwares were generated over time. Among these cases relating to music piracy and software piracy, baidu search engine is a very typical and famous one. Baidu offers music delivery services, which links directly to thousands of copyright infringing music tracks. Many people find such services very convenient to them but these really cause massive damages to the development of the music industry. The Chinese music industry issued a warning to Baidu because of the seriousness of music piracy this year. Baidu is currently involved in many lawsuits due to the Music Copyright Society of China and other big music companies. Till now, music delivery services on Baidu have been forced to terminate.  

 5.3.4  Policies and implemented laws


The PRC government has paid much attention on intellectual property problem nowadays. This is due to the large revenue losses and feedback from foreign countries. In the past few years, the PRC government has been busy in enacting the copyright law. For example, in October 2002, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress introduced the "Decision to Amend Copyright Law of the People's Republic of China". This amendment to the Copyright Law of 1990 had a significant positive impact upon the efficacy of the law. There are several substantial changes including film rental rights, full and partial assignment of copyrights and so on.

The PRC government also released China's Action Plan on IPR (Intellectual Property Protection) Protection 2008 online. This is the third year that the government has posted the annual plan online for public viewing. In this plan, there are ten actions defined in the IPR. Legislation and enforcement are the two main actions which can show how seriously the government regards IPR.  With regards to legislation, the main point is to revise and formulate rules and regulations. For the enforcement part, the authority aims to carry out special campaigns to fight against cyber IPR infringement. For more details about the policy, please refer to this website http://english.ipr.gov.cn/en/ .


5.4 Applications of ICT on policies and laws

5.4.1  Law information website 

The population in China is very huge, thus it is difficult for the government to inform the public of such policies and laws through education. ICT offers a good way for government to construct a platform that can contribute to the awareness of policies and laws. For instance, the authority has created some websites that are open to the public. The following is a Chinese website that offers much information about laws and policies: http://www.law-star.com/ . People can read the latest news and cases about the laws, know the latest statutes and can also request for some legal aids. Such websites are a very useful tool for the implementation of laws.

Reference

Business Software Alliance. (2007). Fifth Annual BSA and IDC Global Software: Piracy Study. Global.bsa Retrieved on Nov 7, 2008, from

http://global.bsa.org/idcglobalstudy2007//studies/2007_global_piracy_study.pdf 

Cheng.J (May 15, 2007). By the numbers: piracy rate in China down 10 percent. Retrieved on Nov 8, 2008, from

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070515-by-the-numbers-piracy-rate-in-china-down-10-percent.html

Forney.M (Oct 3, 2005). China's Web Watcher. TIME World. Retrieved on Nov 6, 2008, from

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,501051010-1112920,00.html   

Herring.C & Morris.E (2006). Censorship: For Our or For Our Government's Protection? Duke.edu Retrieved on Nov 6, 2008, from

http://www.duke.edu/~dgm4/ethics 

LEK for the Motion Picture Association. (2002). The Cost of Movie Piracy. MPAA. Retrieved on Nov 7, 2008, from

http://www.mpaa.org/leksummaryMPA%20revised.pdf

Sachoff.M (June 3, 2008). Music Industry Warns Baidu About Piracy. Retrieved on Nov 8, 2008, from

http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2008/06/03/music-industry-warns-baidu-about-piracy 

Yu.E (May 16, 2007). Asia: The Steep Cost of Software Piracy. Businessweek. Retrieved on Nov 7, 2008, from

http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/may2007/gb20070516_812794.htm?chan=globalbiz_asia+index+page_technology

Picture of censorship courtesy of http://www.atelier-us.com/international/article/youtube-censorship-in-china