China P2P Shakeup Latest in Gov’t Effort to Clean Up Video File Sharing Sites

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Something funky is going on with some P2P sites, notably BTChina, Xunlei, VeryCD and Garden of Eden, which have (been) closed.

The State Adminstration of Radio, Film, and TV (SARFT), possibly working with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) is behind all this, which is interesting since it has been engaged in a fight with the Ministry of Culture recently over other Internet-related matters (e.g. online games, mobile content).

This latest move is a continuation of general video file sharing site cleanup operations that started this Fall. Notices went out to many sites, letting them know that they will be shut down if they remain unlicensed (?????????????).

The real question is what the motivation is behind all this. Some say that it is a further move to get rid of Internet porn, others say it has more to do with consolidation and government control over content. There is always the chance as well that this relates to copyright infringement, although some of the biggest offenders out there are licensed and continuing along their merry way, at least for the moment.

One possibility is that if these smaller, unlicensed sites get shut down and the government and IP owners focus on the big sites, there might actually be some headway on online copyright infringement.

For the moment, the present campaign has P2P (peer-to-peer) sites in mind, which generally means sites that rely on BitTorrent. Interesting that they are moving against BT sites from a licensing standpoint, since it has been difficult in some countries to go after such sites (e.g. Pirate Bay) because they generally do not host files. Liability legal issues in such cases are complex – and fun, too, if you’re an IP/IT lawyer.

Anyway, I don’t have time to look for more stuff at the moment, but you can look at some links to Chinese-language coverage. Sina has some good background on the sites and the recent legal maneuverings HERE, and HERE.

Update: the Associated Press is now reporting on this as well.