Can a petition silence China's MP3 pirates?

More music is pirated than paid for in China, says an upstart music label. It's asking listeners to pledge allegiance to artists.

By Janelle Brown
Published August 2, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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The U.S. recording industry may complain about losing money to MP3 music piracy, but its troubles pale in comparison to the Chinese music industry's experience.

"Piracy is second nature here on the mainland," says Paul Strickland and Dave O'Dell, the founders of the Chineserock Web site and online record label, in a recent interview via e-mail. Chinese artists are already struggling to survive in a market dominated by pirated CDs, they point out. As their peer Jia Wei at Magic Stone Records has told them (to paraphrase): "For almost every real album we produce, there are around 10 fakes sold." And now Chinese music producers have to contend with sites like, that offer free, pirated downloads of most every Chinese hit song.


O'Dell and Strickland have decided that it's time to try and put a stop to MP3 piracy of Chinese music. Rather than chasing down individual pirates or taking legal action as their American counterparts have, they are appealing to the public. The two Beijing residents launched an online petition this week asking fans to "support musicians and record labels by always downloading and purchasing legal music," to "never visit and use MP3 search directories and MP3 Web sites that list and contain pirated music," and to "report Web sites and search directories that list pirate MP3s to" They've even enlisted rock stars like Cui Jian to endorse their cause.

The two say that their petition has already drawn a "significant" number of signatures, primarily from local music fans. But piracy is rampant in China, which has long been a center for illegal knockoffs of everything from CDs to software to Rolex watches, and it's hard to believe that an online petition will have a big impact. Still, as the founders wrote in an e-mail, "We hope that the petition will light a candle under the ass of apathetic bystanders who unknowingly support music piracy on the Net."

After all, they say, their only alternative is to sit back and watch as online music piracy cuts even deeper into artist revenues. "Naturally, we can't attack personal sites one by one, so we figure: Educate the masses and try to reduce the problem early on. If no one does this, the problem just gets worse and worse."

Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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