Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Pirates Attack Great Firewall

According to an article in The Guardian (also in the Taipei Times), the Chinese government is losing their battle to control information flow into China. Many previous discussions on controlling information flow, both here and around the blogosphere, have focused on the internet. This article entitled "Pirates and Bloggers Beat China's Great Wall of Propaganda" focuses primarily on movie pirates.
Pirate DVD shops might not normally be considered outposts of free expression, but they are among the many gaps in the great wall of propaganda, which is being breached by a motley crew of bloggers, copyright dodgers and curious consumers.

It seems that the Chinese are learning a lesson about trying to control markets.
The motivation is purely business, but the effect is partly political. Much of the material for sale is officially prohibited because it contradicts the government line. Among many banned items on sale is Seven Years in Tibet, in which Brad Pitt plays a character sympathetic to the Dalai Lama; Devils at the Doorstep, a film about Japanese troops in a Chinese village that won the 2000 Grand Jury prize at Cannes; and Stanley Kwan's Lan Yu, set around the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement.

When there is demand, there will be supply. Markets will always arise. You could argue that the Chinese government isn't really trying that hard to stamp out these controversial pirated DVDs (after all, the article cites the piracy police themselves buying pirated discs), but that doesn't really matter since all they can really hope to do is make the disc slightly more expensive, not wipe out its sale.

All in all, this article is worth a look just because it is a much more optimistic (from the perspective of freedom and the consumer) take on censorship than most other articles on the subject.