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China: All Your Web Video Are Belong to Us

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As we reported yesterday, the Chinese government is now restricting online video, and more details on the move have started to become available. Through a translation of the new rules, plus other reports, here’s what we know:

  • China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television will regulate and monitor the web video industry.
  • Only state-owned or state-controlled companies can stream or broadcast videos online. Licensed web video companies must also have a “comprehensive program censoring system.” Unlicensed companies are not allowed to let users upload audio or video.
  • The following content is forbidden: “That which damages China’s unity and sovereignty; harms ethnic solidarity; promotes superstition; portrays violence, pornography, gambling, or terrorism; violates privacy; damages China’s culture or traditions; or violates existing laws of China.”
  • The new regulations take effect on Jan. 31.

What isn’t clear is how this will impact foreign video-sharing companies, such as YouTube, that aren’t based in China but are accessible there. Even private companies such as aren’t exactly sure what this will mean. The Tudou CEO told the The Wall Street Journal that his company was “seeking explanations,” but considers the move a “positive step” as now knows to whom it has to report.

Given the government’s strict control over just about everything else in China, this move isn’t surprising. With the Olympics coming up, all eyes will be on China this summer and the government will want to minimize any risk of embarrassment. And it could just be a coincidence, but (unregulated) web video sparked a national incident last week when a well-known Chinese broadcaster used a high-profile Olympics press conference to tell the world that her husband was cheating on her. A clip of that moment went online and became a viral video sensation.