Customers of Apple’s iTunes store in China have been having trouble signing into the service and downloading songs during the last week, leading to speculation that Chinese authorities are possibly trying to block access to a new Tibet-themed album from the Art of Peace Foundation, Songs for Tibet, featuring new music from artists like Sting, Garbage, Vanessa Carlton, and John Mayer, along with a 15-minute discussion from exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.
China operates the most extensive Internet filtering and censorship operation on the planet, routinely preventing hundreds of millions of Chinese Internet users from accessing material the regime finds objectionable or illegal, including information about Tibet, democracy, and the outlawed Falun Gong movements. However, iTunes users unable to log into the service and/or download the album included members of the press covering the Olympic games in Beijing, China, and Olympic athletes themselves, who had been promised unrestricted Internet access during the Olympic Games. Just prior to the start of the Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee expressed shock that China was limiting Internet access even for press covering the games; in response, China lifted restrictions on some—but not all—banned sites.
Although the company’s iPod media players are strong sellers in China, Apple does not operate an iTunes store there; instead, users in China must log into iTunes stores based in the United States or other countries.
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