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WTO rules China illegally restricts media imports like iTunes

December 24, 2009

By Sam Oliver, Apple Insider
December 22, 2009

The World Trade Organization ruled this week that China is obstructing
trade by forcing foreign suppliers to deliver media through state-owned
companies, thereby blocking services like a native iTunes.

The Chinese government on Tuesday expressed "regret" over the WTO's
ruling. China utilizes the practice to review movies, music and books
for objectionable content before it is released to the public.

Despite the popularity of iPods and iPhones from Apple, China does not
have its own iTunes Music Store. U.S. media companies believe that this
is due to the government's policies that place restrictions on selling
content directly to the public.

In 2008, the Chinese government came under fire after it temporarily
blocked access to the U.S. iTunes store in reaction to the release of
the album "Songs for Tibet - The Art of Peace." The store returned days
later, but without access to the pro-Tibet album.

The Chinese government has long blocked access to Web sites it feels are
objectionable, including subjects like Tibet and the Tiananmen Square
protests of 1989. Access to the U.S. iTunes store was blocked during the
Olympics in Beijing, when the Chinese government's censorship practices
were in the spotlight.

U.S. media companies kept the focus on China after the Olympics with
complaints to the WTO. According to The Associated Press, music labels
including EMI and Sony Music Entertainment, publishers like McGraw Hill
and Simon & Schuster, and Hollwood movie studios Warner Bros., Disney,
Paramount, Universal and 20th Century Fox were involved.

The WTO ruling could mean that the U.S. could ask to have commercial
sanctions against Chinese goods, if the nation fails to address the
situation in the next year. The Chinese government offered no indication
of its next move.

Even without an official store in the nation of over one billion, iTunes
has become a global phenomenon, launching in numerous countries. It is
the largest overall seller of music in the U.S., with a 25 percent share
of the total market.
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