Beijing Internet users are scrabbling for downloads from BitTorrent (BT) websites following speculation that authorities will shut them down as early as this week.
"My roommates were shocked to hear VeryCD is going down," Huang Shan, a 20-year-old college student told METRO in reference to a major BT website.
"I may never be able to download Hollywood movies or classical records again."
VeryCD went offline yesterday afternoon due to a technical failure, Dai Yunjie, co-founder of the website, posted on Sina.com, and a notice that appeared yesterday evening on the website log-on page read service may resume Thursday noon.
Internet experts told METRO the failure might be caused by an overload of users seeking last-minute free downloads.
As the largest BT download website in China with 5 million downloads each year, VeryCD has been on the verge of closure after the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) shut hundreds of similar peer-to-peer file sharing sites, including the 50 million-user BTChina, during the last 10 days in its latest attempt to fight pornography and piracy online.
Owners of the Shanghai-based website said they might suspend download feeds this weekend because the site does not have a license to provide audio and video content. The website was warned by SARFT in 2008 it was spreading unauthorized audios and videos in China.
Huang Yimeng, the co-founder of the website, told the Beijing News on Tuesday that his company is still applying for the license from the authorities. But Huang declined to comment on the future of the company.
Aside from pirated DVDs, file sharing websites are also comprehensive sources of foreign entertainment such as dramas, rare movies, books and CDs.
"I absolutely can't live without this website. It is my major source of foreign entertainment," said Beijinger Bu Bo as she checked the download speeds of her next 10 movies from her office.
The 29-year-old said the website closure meant she would not be able to get hold of rare movies, including those banned in China.
Jeremy Goldkorn, founder of the popular blog Danwei.org, said when he posted a list of Chinese file sharing sites on his website a couple of years ago, he noticed an increase in traffic from outside of China.
"None of it was coming from China," Goldkorn told METRO yesterday. "There are a lot of people who look for pirated content on the Interent and will go to any country's service available."
Some Internet policy experts are suggesting that Internet officials might have gone too far.
"I suggest the government apply less harsher rules on rapid-sharing websites, beause they still need nurturing the market," Fang Xingdong, a Beijing-based Internet analyst, told METRO.
A copy of the Internet document entitled Regulations on the Protection of the Right of Communication through Information, created by SARFT in 2006, was posted on its official website on Friday.
The administration said websites were not allowed to provide audio or video products without permission.
(China Daily 12/10/2009 page25)