Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Other Side of the Great Firewall

Blogger and Blogspot are still blocked within China, which really should motivate me to transfer this entire blog over to a private server, but really has just motivated me to sign up for Freedur's free one-month trial. It's a service that essentially re-routes my browser through Texas, so I can use websites that aren't normally viewable from within China. It's actually very simple and easy to use, and I'd recommend it, although a friend of mine gave good marks to the similar Hotspot Shield, which is free. Update 9/1/2009 - The company was stolen by an employee, and the original company now offers the Freedur service for free.

Just as how from within China computers can't normally view Youtube or Blogspot, computers from within the US are blocked from many of China's vast resources of online pirated music & video. Granted, just walking down the street there's plenty of bootleg DVDs available, but most of the people I know have moved over to online bootlegs in the last few years. And even at Internet Cafes, a whole lot of people are just there to watch movies on the 17" screens...maybe they go for all the cigarette smoke...

As shown up top though, it's very easy to turn the Freedur proxy service on or off, if it's off then one can see the same web connection as any other user in China. For example, I can go to Baidu, China's most popular Internet browser (maybe 50% more popular than Google), and with a couple of clicks come to this:

Which is a list of Michael Jackson's most popular songs. From within China, clicking on "Billie Jean" brings up a list of songs that can be listened to or downloaded:

Where yeah, clicking on "listen" brings up the song at full quality, it even has karaoke lyrics alongside!

Meanwhile, going over to the American side of the Great Firewall of China, suddenly Baidu says (in Chinese) that it can't find any search results...

It's not just topical results, like Michael Jackson or Billie Jean. Looking up "Beatles" from China's most popular search engine will yield 20,000 MP3s, while looking up "Beatles" from America will yield none.

It's not just music, movies and TV shows are often bootlegged on Chinese video-sharing sites, such as youku. Looking up the popular ongoing HBO show "True Blood" on youku shows a number of results, the first of which is the entire show, up to last week:

Just like Youtube, it's a simple click to watch the episode, with an hour-long episode fit into a single clip. Quality is somewhere between Youtube's normal quality, and Youtube's HD quality.

Whereas clicking on the video from the American side of the Great Firewall of China brings up this:

This blocking is being done by the companies in question, not any American government task force. I imagine it's to keep off the radar of the large companies and their lawyers, in nations where IP rights are actually enforced.

I can't claim innocent; I and probably every other person in China watches bootleg TV and movies. In fact it's essentially impossible to buy legitimate versions of most DVDs or CDs, and even seemingly legitimate stores sell pirated videos.

On the other hand, I really think that massive bootlegging largely explains why Mainland China's movies and music are universally so very very awful.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Thanks for letting us know about Freedur - this is a great solution and works perfectly.

Do you know of sites that work from within China so that people can have access to the videos and music that is available? We'd hate to lose this downloading ability once we move back to the States...