Want to rile Google as well as China? Create a fake YouTube site.
As the Google-China face-off spirals and even entangles President Obama, one Chinese computer whiz adds to the fray by creating a fake version of YouTube. That simultaneously violates Google’s intellectual property and China’s strict censorship.
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Other material on sensitive issues critical of the Chinese authorities, however, has slipped through Li’s self-censorship, including an Australian TV documentary, “Repression in Xinjiang,” about the government’s treatment of the Uighur minority in the far west of China, and Western TV coverage of Tibetan monks complaining about the government.Skip to next paragraph
“There is so much sensitive material that some must be missing” from his keyword list, Li said. He hoped that “loyal users and users who want this website to survive will participate in the censorship work.”
The site has no commercial purpose, Li said. Access is free, and it carries no advertisements. “I do not expect to make a profit with this,” he said. “I am doing it only for [Web] users’ convenience.”
A window on the homepage entitled “About This Site” reads: “The ‘Featured Videos,’ ‘Most Popular’ functions and search results are based on the Youtube standard API, some video may differ with Youtube.com.”
Li said he had used YouTube.com’s API to siphon the site’s content onto his server, building the fake version in the course of a night’s work. “I could have made it identical to YouTube, but it is better to be a little bit shanzhai,” he said.
Shanzhai, which literally means “mountain village,” is a slang term for Chinese imitation and pirated brands and goods, particularly electronics, made metaphorically in distant redoubts far from the authorities.
Little official attention, so far
Li said he had not heard from Google about his piracy, and there is no indication that Google has yet issued a legal challenge to the theft of YouTube’s content, logo, and trademarked “Broadcast Yourself” slogan, nor made any other attempt to close its imitator down.
“Google would not pursue an individual,” Li said. “I don’t want to pick a fight with Google, that’s not the point of this website.”
Xiao Qiang, an expert on the Chinese Internet at the University of California at Berkeley, said he was “puzzled” by Google’s lack of response to what appears to be blatant theft of its intellectual property. “Do they see something for themselves in this effort?” he wondered.
Two weeks ago, Google blamed a “targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property” for its decision to review its operations in China.
Google is currently in delicate negotiations with the Chinese authorities over the conditions under which the company could continue to operate here. The firm might be avoiding mention of the pirate site in order not to stir up more trouble for itself, one local Internet entrepreneur who asked not to be identified suggested.
“Not many people yet know about the site,” she said. “If Google leaves it alone, nobody will talk about it. If Google talks about it, everyone will be curious.”
“If this is some techies playing around, I don’t think it has a real future,” said Dr. Xiao. “Once it starts to attract a lot of people, the censors will start laying their eyes on it. And a bigger company could not get away with it if they don’t have an agreement with Google."