China’s Ministry of Culture will “hand down punishments” to 14 websites, including one run by Internet search provider Baidu Inc., for providing downloads of songs not approved or registered with the country’s content regulators, in what appeared to be part of a renewed effort to block explicit and politically sensitive online content. The websites have provided download services for the music despite warnings not to do so, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported Monday, citing a ministry official. Xinhua didn’t specify the punishments.
Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo said: “We are aware that songs require approval and have sought to comply with previous notifications from the Ministry of Culture. But search engine indexing is a continuous process and some files may have reappeared in results. Baidu will now take quick action to remove links to any files that have been identified by the Ministry.”
The notice comes as China undertakes broader efforts to take greater control of Internet content. China’s Internet censors in recent months have revved up their efforts to block content they see as threatening after anonymous calls online for Middle East-inspired “Jasmine Revolution” activities. Baidu’s search service for digital MP3 copies of songs has long been under pressure because it includes links to free downloads of unlicensed copies of songs – part of a broader issue of piracy that has generated complaints by Western media companies. But the reason for the Culture Ministry’s move appears to be related to censorship concerns. The Xinhua report didn’t mention intellectual property issues.