China cracks down on online piracy and removes two major sites for illegal downloads

China cracks down on online piracy and removes two major sites for illegal downloads

Two major platforms in China dedicated to pirating international movies and TV shows have shut down today. The removal comes just in time for World Intellectual Property Day, a little-known, UN-mandated holiday held on April 26 that Chinese fans of Game of Thrones unwittingly observed today.

As reported on Chinese news portal Techweb (hat tip to Tech in Asia), Silu HD and YYeTs, the two websites in question, closed their doors today in markedly different fashions.

YYeTs, the less popular of the pair, suddenly notified its userbase of its demise with a brief message at the top stating in Chinese “This website is closed temporarily,” followed by a series of links directing users to other torrent sites around the globe (among them, the well-known Kickass Torrents). On its Sina Weibo page, the company posted a message stating that it will cease operations temporarily, but will continue to offer services for downloading subtitles and synopses.

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Meanwhile, Silu HD’s closure turned out to be quite the blowout affair. The company’s operations were substantial: described as the most well-known site of its nature in China, Silu HD had been supplying its 140 million registered, paying members with access to unlicensed, Blu-ray quality Hollywood content for over 10 years. It had daily traffic of 30,000 users at any given moment. The company even had its own office building, complete with a staff of over 100.

Following an investigation from the Beijing Cultural Law Enforcement Agency, on April 24th, authorities tracked down the CEO of Silu HD all the way to his private residence, searched his house for items connecting him to the distribution of counterfeit media, and ultimately arrested him along with 30 other employees.

These two closures follow two other notable incidents of Chinese authorities cracking down on piracy. Just yesterday, authorities reportedly destroyed over 30 million pirated copies of physical media (books, dvds, etc). Around the same time, Jack Ma, the founder of China’s Alibabaannounced his company would be collaborating with authorities to prevent the sale of counterfeit goods on Alibaba’s Taobao (equivalent to eBay) and TMall (B2C e-commerce) platforms.

Of course, with these three incidents occurring around World Intellectual Property day, there is clearly a bit of performance going on. Despite this, Chinese authorities do seem to be taking IP violations more seriously than they have in the past. A report in yesterday’s Global Times, China’s English-language government-mouthpiece newspaper, states that last year saw a 25 percent increase in intellectual property-related cases in Shanghai’s courts.

With the above in mind, it’s difficult to state decisively if these crackdowns will pass, or if they are as sign of what’s to come as China’s Internet evolves. Baidu, China’s search giant, and Youku Tudou, the YouTube of the Middle Kingdom, have both made strides in transforming themselves from havens of online piracy to legitimate providers of licensed entertainment. Unlawful distribution of apps, however, remains rampant.

 Image Credit: foolip/Flickr

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