VeryCD, Chinese music, TV and movies downloading service, hopes to bounce back after IP crackdown

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 August, 2015, 10:42am

Mainland internet users lost a popular download service for music, TV series and movies when the central government forced VeryCD, a leading mainland peer-to-peer file-sharing internet portal, to overhaul much of its core business.

An official crackdown on intellectual property rights (IPR) violations - which also affected VeryCD's ed2k links for TV and movie downloads - came early this week after US President Barack Obama brought up the IPR issues during President Hu Jintao's US visit last week.

'As we speak, we have to close or stop what we have built with heart and mind in recent years, and nobody's willing to do that,' VeryCD founder Huang Yimeng wrote in several of his microblogs. 'But we expected its sudden arrival.'

VeryCD, which aimed to be the biggest and the most user-friendly peer-to-peer (P2P) seed database website in the world, said that although it had not obtained a licence from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (Sarft) for an online audio and video content provider on the mainland, the move would not spell the demise of the popular portal. Instead, Huang said he regarded the overhaul as a business realignment.

In December 2009, authorities closed down the top three BitTorrent websites, including BTChina, for licence violations and VeryCD was also shut down for a day.

Last month, the Ministry of Culture ordered the closure of 237 web portals providing unauthorised music downloads without licences.

Earlier this month, in a landmark judicial interpretation of the criminal law, the country's supreme court, the top prosecutor's office and the Ministry of Public Security said gross IPR violations would be punishable by at least three years in prison.

Yu Guofu , a Beijing-based lawyer specialising in internet IPR issues, said many BitTorrent websites had run into legal trouble.

He said that to survive, VeryCD would have to bring itself in line with the law by first removing unauthorised content and then transforming itself into a platform for copyrighted content.

Millions of VeryCD users might have to do away with the traditional mindset in which they took free access to unauthorised content for granted, he added.

'In fact we all know that every piece of work is an asset that costs money and manpower,' he said.

Because VeryCD had a large membership, it could display advertisements to obtain the revenue to pay content providers, Yu added.

That way, it could still offer copyrighted contents to its members for free, rather than charging them to download.