Police in Shanghai have raided a well-liked video-sharing website that provided overseas movies and TV reveals to greater than eight million registered customers, reducing off a key supply of uncensored content material for Chinese viewers.
Police detained 14 individuals in a Feb. 3 raid on the places of work of the Renren Yingshi video-sharing app and web site, on suspicion of copyright piracy linked to greater than 20,000 Chinese and foreign-made films and TV reveals.
Suspects had been detained within the japanese province of Shandong, the central province of Hubei and the southwestern area of Guangxi, ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) newspaper the People’s Daily reported.
“Investigations revealed that the suspects had set up a number of companies which were involved in distributing, operating, and maintaining the Renren Yingshi mobile app and a related web portal by setting up or leasing servers in China or overseas,” the paper reported.
People’s Daily reported that over about two years the gang gained greater than 8 million customers registered on the positioning.
The raid on Renren may sign a wider crackdown on lots of of websites offering Chinese-language subtitles for foreign-made video content material, usually staffed by volunteer translators.
These subtitling websites have meant that thousands and thousands of viewers in China had entry to reveals deemed too delicate to air in China, together with Game of Thrones, The Mandalorian, and Queer as Folk, the South China Morning Post reported.
In current years, China has shut down comparable websites together with Kuaifeng, Baofengyingyin, and BT Paradise, in addition to the Shengchengjiayuan and Sashou.com subtitling teams.
“They have been treading a fine line between expanding their audiences and not drawing undue attention from authorities, who would shut them down for not following the rules and launch crackdowns against copyright infringement,” the paper mentioned.
“The work of these subtitling groups has had a certain positive impact in recent years, allowing internet users to see certain content,” Zhang Hongbo, director-general of the China Written Works Copyright Society, advised state information company Xinhua.
“However, they need to abide by copyright law and relevant international intellectual property treaties to which China is a signatory,” Zhang mentioned.
Renren’s personal subtitle group was arrange in 2003 by Chinese college students learning within the U.S. and Canada, and rapidly expanded into one of many largest subtitling operations in China.
Fear of uncensored content material
Liu Lipeng, a former worker of the Chinese video website LeTV, mentioned the important thing motivation behind the raid on Renren was extra probably linked to a worry of uncensored content material being accessible to Chinese viewers than to issues over piracy.
“The other shoe has finally dropped,” Liu advised RFA. “There won’t be much opportunity to translate foreign movies and TV shows in future.”
“Totalitarian countries are terrified that culture from the free world could awaken people’s humanity, sense of justice and morality,” he mentioned.
“People who watch a lot of foreign content almost feel like they’re living in a normal world, as if they are tuned into the values of the free world,” Liu mentioned.
“This is the thing that totalitarian states fear the most, and they’ll do everything in their power to combat it,” he mentioned.
The raid got here after a Jan. 30 assembly of the CCP’s Politburo agreed to prioritize a nationwide crackdown on mental property violations, which was adopted with an article by normal secretary Xi Jinping within the social gathering journal Qiushi, endorsing this strategy as a nationwide strategic purpose.
“We must step up administrative enforcement, and focus on key areas where there is an effect on public opinion,” Xi wrote.
Impact on home product
Ji Jiabao, a scholar at University of Wisconsin Law School, mentioned reducing China off from world tradition can be detrimental to China’s personal inventive media productions.
“If you shut down these websites and have no other channels for people to have contact with, and consume, foreign cultures, it may have a negative impact on domestic cultural innovation,” Ji mentioned.
“China would probably not have been able to export its own cultural products to the rest of the world … if people hadn’t been raised on Renren Yingshi,” he mentioned.
Former state media intern Xianzi lamented on her Weibo account: “How much of our generation’s literary awakening has been based on these volunteer subtitling groups? Do we not deserve to see literary works without official permission?”
Former Renren person Daisy, who declined to be named, mentioned she had watched the “Lord of the Rings” films and the U.Okay. historic drama “Downton Abbey” round 10 years in the past.
She mentioned she would not consider within the declare that the crackdown is linked to piracy.
“We are talking about the CCP, which steals stuff from other people all the time: are they really going to start arresting people over intellectual property rights?” Daisy mentioned.
“They just don’t want us to be exposed to anything from overseas,” she mentioned. “China is becoming more and more like North Korea.”
China’s newly revised Copyright Law will come into impact on June 1, with up to date laws on copyright safety on-line and massively elevated compensation for profitable infringement lawsuits.
Reported by Xue Xiaoshan for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.