B E I J I N G, March 25 — In its latest effort to impose control over freewheeling electronic commerce, China has announced rules banning online sales of imported music and videos and excluding foreign invested Internet companies from selling any audiovisual products.
The Ministry of Culture will require that all companies selling such products online get licenses by May 1, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Saturday.
The report said the rules were intended to prevent sales of pirated, smuggled or "otherwise illegal" music and video products and to help "develop a healthy market."
Also prohibited are downloads using MP3 file format systems, it said. The systems use compression technology to take music from a CD or other source and, using a mathematical algorithm, shrink the file down so that it takes up less storage space.
The report threatened punishment but did not provide details.
Crackdown on the Net
The government also recently ordered companies to register software used to transmit sensitive data and threatened punishment for letting government secrets slip onto the Web.
China lags behind in setting up a legal framework for regulating the fast-moving Internet. During the annual session of the national legislature earlier this month lawmakers urged that new laws be enacted to govern electronic commerce.
Moves to control the Internet also reflect the government’s ambivalence toward the Web, which is far more difficult to police than the state-controlled conventional media. A special police force has been set up to monitor the Internet and has in criminal trials accused political dissidents and leaders of a banned meditation movement, the Falun Gong, of disseminating anti-government views and state secrets on the Web.
Still, Internet use is soaring. Official media reported that in the last six months of 1999, users more than doubled from 4 million to 8.9 million.