With authorities taking a harder stance on unlicensed audio and video download sites, Beijing's illegal DVD vendors are anxiously awaiting a possible increase in sales.
The closure of the top Chinese BitTorrent (BT) sites, such as BTChina.net, has left a sizable gap in cheap market needs for film and TV addicts. One DVD vendor, surnamed Wang, told China Daily he expects a sharp increase.
"Pirated DVDs are the cheapest choice for people without free downloads online," he said. "I expect my sales to triple before Christmas."
Despite Wang's optimistic tone, the owner of one of the larger DVD shops near the National Arts Museum of China, who requested to remain anonymous, said she is yet to experience any noteworthy increase in sales.
Zhang Lun, a press officer at the Beijing urban administration, which is in charge of clearing peddlers from city streets, also told METRO the administration has not yet observed any increase in illegal DVD sales.
The spike in DVD sales, if there is one at all, will be short because the illegal download industry recovers so quickly, said Aaron D. Hurvitz, member of the foreign counsel for Kangxin Partners PC, one of China's intellectual property law firms.
"Simply shutting down those websites might have an immediate impact, but where there's a will, there's a way," he said.
Hurvitz said he suspected the site closures would show a short-term effect on the amount of downloads, but over time it would be business as usual.
"The problem is, if you shut down the top two BitTorrent sites, then people are simply going to go to number three, number four or number five on the list," he said. "You can cut off the head but sooner or later two more will grow back."
Most Beijing netizens aren't waiting for the full effect of the closures before beginning their search for new download locations.
"I have begun searching foreign links for free downloads in case all the Chinese BT websites are shut down," 26-year-old Beijinger Duan Chen told China Daily recently.
The recent site closures were added to a list of 414 video and audio websites shut down in 2009 by authorities for operating without a license, containing pornography copyright violation or hosting other "harmful" content.
In addition to BTChina.net, one of the most popular file-sharing sites, VeryCD.com went offline earlier this week citing technical difficulties.
UUbird.com, another popular Chinese download site, reacted to the announcement that BTChina had been shutdown by stating it would pull all content related to TV series and film "in order to comply with the State's laws and regulations". A recent visit to the site revealed that users still have access to all the same content.