China’s leading website for streaming foreign video content has been targeted in a piracy clampdown by the officials.

YYeTs.com, China’s largest subtitling website, was a sanctuary for the Chinese populace offering them subtitles and pirated content within the country from banned hotshots like Netflix, YouTube, and HBO. Owned by Renren Yingshi, the site offered a plethora of unconventional and offbeat content to millions of users which is generally not legally possible owing to the country’s heavy censorship.

Motion Pictures Association of America had blacklisted and ostracised Renren Yingshi in 2014 citing him as the ‘worst source of online piracy in the world’.

The probe in the case by the Chinese police has yet again shed the light on people’s reliance on the pirated media.

The rampant film piracy in China has given way to alternate film culture – an underground passage to allow cultural flow bypassing state censorship and control.

Piracy in China forerun to the early 1980s when the country was getting ready for extensive economic reforms. Due to patchy reforms of the publishing industry, the first ripple was suffered by books, magazines, and newspapers.

Over time, for digital media pirates, China became a scandalous haven.

China is the quickest flourishing film market and head destination for foreign films. Nevertheless, because of the stricter control of the government over the expression of the creation and thoughts, piracy has always thrived. The pirates in China tread a delicate path, enlarging their customer base and avoiding any undue attention from authorities.

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Government censorship complexed the situation further, expanding demand for contraband content. It imposes a lot of restrictions in china limiting the number of foreign films that can be broadcasted in the theatres, non-existence of a proper film rating mechanism.

The state exercises a firm constraint over the content, eliminating segments that might be seen as politically sensitive, violent, or vulgar.

Zhang Tongdao, a film scholar in an interview stated that in China, documentary films are practically missing from the legitimate film market, their supply dependent on piracy. The justification on why piracy can deliver and provide a broad range of films is largely political. The repressive state control over a culture is the secret to the adoration of the piracy market among Chinese cineastes.

China now holds second place in the biggest cinema market as regards the box office. For film pirates also, the commercial value has soared. Even in a strictly policed regime like china, piracy has turned from amateurish torrent passion to a full-scale criminal commercial enterprise. In contrast to the number of megaplexes, streaming has bloomed even rapidly.

China is much more stringent in its control over the digital cinema system having issued only forty cinema operators to screen first-run films up until 2019.

Communist China has made many attempts in tracking down and closing this issue of piracy over media.

Launching an antipiracy campaign in 2009, the authorities in China shut down various websites and file sharing gateways.

In 2017, as much as 2,500 websites which were a platform for pirated streaming or downloads were closed and more than 700,000 weblinks providing unauthorised content were stopped.

Ghost No. 1, a server allowing pirates to make fresh HD copies of cinemas on the very same day of their release, was shut down in 2019 after being for three years. It was the most prominent piracy ring to ever operate in the world’s most censorious regimes.

These incidents show a step up in the government’s attempts in clasping its grip firmer over the circulation of information in the country. All these efforts are an extra mile to regulate and suppress this otherwise uncontainable underground kingdom in China’s heavily regulated cultural system. The consistent debasement and degeneration of civil liberties and press freedoms in Hong Kong is another example.

The domestic scheme of censorship and control extends beyond China’s borders.  As global influence and control of Beijing are on the rise, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) perspective and approach towards censorship and control over cultural expression is coaxing, coercing, and governing actors, writers, journalists, publishers, etc. regardless of their nationality, who approaches topics related to China.

In conclusion, the unfaltering labour of CCP is to make sure that the only tales told within the country are ones that it especially authorizes.

The history of cinema is indivisible from the political history of the pertaining nation and protection of IP rights is always an uphill battle for the government which doesn’t even realize the basic rights of its citizens and considers them as a theoretical notion.

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