Flicking through his cardboard box full of Hollywood blockbusters and Francois Truffaut classics, vendor Liu Min looked glum. 'You had better buy today,' he said. 'On August 15, the police are going to shut us all down, for two months at least and maybe for good. Then it will be back to selling Coca-Cola and cheap cigarettes. It is bad news.' Mr Liu is one of thousands of street vendors who earn their living, or most of it, from selling pirated CDs of foreign and Chinese films and music, for 5 to 8 yuan each. The cheapness and variety has made many Shanghai living rooms the equivalent of film museums. The business has been booming in the city for more than 10 years, and rumours of a crackdown are not uncommon. But several events give it more credibility this time, such as the highly publicised closure on June 30 of Xiangyang market. It was the city's most popular bazaar for fake goods, where you could buy a 'Ralph Lauren' polo shirt for 30 yuan. In Beijing, the police have been active for the past 12 months, driving most of the CD vendors off the street and into back rooms out of public view. And, when President Hu Jintao went to the United States in April, he chose as his first stop the headquarters of Microsoft. There he told chairman Bill Gates that he used his operating system every day, and was serious about protecting intellectual property rights in China. Back on the streets of Shanghai, that promise sounded like a death sentence. The argument goes that, in response to US anger over the soaring trade deficit, Beijing does not want to revalue the yuan or limit its exports - but it can crack down on intellectual property violations without hurting the core economy. The street vendors, many of them non-Shanghainese, make an easy target. But will it work? Wu Lili, an office worker in her 20s, is sceptical. 'They cannot shut down the business altogether, as the demand is too strong. My guess is that the vendors will disappear from the streets, and you will have to go to look for them down the alley and up the stairs.' Like many people of her age, Ms Wu spends about 100 yuan a month on the CDs, buying mainly foreign titles. 'Most of these films are never shown in China. If we cannot buy the pirated CDs, we can never see them. The market is young people who have free time before they marry and start a family. Another issue is the employment of so many vendors. What will they do if the police shut down the business?' she said. A ban would also be a disaster for the foreigners who don't understand Chinese and don't want to watch Chinese television. Maybe their only hope is to get on the phone and find someone to install an illegal satellite dish, after all.