This past Sunday has been labeled “Black Sunday” by Chinese netizens after China’s major file sharing site VeryCD disabled all its downloads.
Being one of the leading file-sharing sites in China, VeryCD was the major source of eMule downloads for music and videos. It had virtually everything – from Hollywood blockbusters to Korean pop songs to Japanese TV shows. Although the site is still accessible, all download links have been removed, in its place are links to licensed contents. VeryCD is now moving towards legitimacy by obtaining an official license to operate and moving towards authorized content.
After 7 years of good times, a lot of users will definitely be deeply saddened. After avoiding a crackdown against many similar sites in 2008, the pressure on VeryCD in 2011 was clearly too much. Earlier this month, China’s attempts at reducing copyright infringement have increasingly targeted the digital domain and while Youtube-like sites have taken up much of the spotlight, it was only a matter of time before linking sites like VeryCD felt similar heat.
It seems the crackdown on online piracy is now in full force and a lot earlier than most anticipated. Earlier this month, the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security released a document which detailed penalties for online copyright infringement.
If someone uploads a movie, TV show, music, software or even image to the Internet without the consent of the copyright holder, penalties apply if certain conditions are met. These include if more than 500 pieces of the work are spread to others, if total online downloads hit 50,000 or if a site where the material is located has a sign-up membership of more than 1,000. Penalties are harsh – between 3 and 7 years in jail.