The Great Firewall of China is busy – blocking iTunes and Amazon in the country. Reason being sales of a pro-Tibet album.
You’d think the country would be more focused on wrapping up the Olympics this weekend. Not so, says the IDG. iTunes users in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzen have been receiving ‘unknown error’ messages since early Wednesday, Beijing time. Could this have been sparked by the release of the 20-song “Songs for Tibet – The Art of Peace” album the same day?
Signs certainly point there if the Amazon experience is an indicator. Though the site is accessible, the album page for the “Songs for Tibet” CD will not load showing the following error message: "The connection was reset. The connection to the server was reset while the page was loading." This is a message commonly seen when attempting to reach blocked sites so indeed China is probably playing censor again.
Who’s on the controversial album? Well, there are noted recording stars like Sting, Alanis Morissette as well as John Mayers. Other names include Moby, Imogen Heap, Regina Spektor, Damien Rice, Suzanne Vega, Rush, Ben Harper, Dave Matthews, Duncan Sheik, Teitur, Jonatha Brooke, Joan Armatrading, Rupert Hine, Underworld and Jackson Browne.
Michael Wohl, executive director of the Art of Peace Foundation which produced the album, thinks the added publicity of China blocking iTunes could be a blessing. “The more they continue to block this,” he said, “the more we’re raising awareness of what’s going on over there.”
The album was released exclusively on iTunes on August 5, cleverly timed just before the Beijing Olympics opened. Free downloads of the album was also offered to Olympic athletes via a special site unaffiliated with iTunes. What prompted the banning was likely due to an announcement made by the International Campaign for Tibet who said over 40 Olympians had taken up the offer to download said album.
Wohl noted that it was incorrectly claimed the album advocated for Tibetan independence. “We’re only asking for freedom of expression in Tibet,” he said. “We’re trying to celebrate a culture. The only way you could have a problem with that is if you’re trying to eradicate that culture.”