Tibet album may have spurred China iTunes block

Art of Peace Foundation, a nonprofit that released a high-profile album on the iTunes Store supporting Tibet, blames China's censors for barring access to the digital-media marketplace.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

An album supporting Tibetan freedom may have led China's government to sever access to Apple's iTunes Store.

This week, Chinese users of iTunes have found themselves unable to access the online store, something that Apple acknowledged but would not say whether it was a technical glitch or a move on the part of the censors.

Art of Peace Foundation

"We are aware of the log-on problems but we have no comment at the moment," the company told the Associated Press.

The incident comes amid the 2008 Olympics, when all eyes are on China--a country well known for its censorship.

Songs for Tibet--The Art of Peace, the album in question, was put forth by the Art of Peace Foundation. According to the nonprofit's Web site, the album supports "peace initiatives and Tibetan cultural preservation projects important to the Dalai Lama," the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. Songs were contributed by high-profile artists like Moby, Ben Harper, John Mayer, Sting, Alanis Morissette, and Dave Matthews.

The nonprofit also speaks out against Chinese censorship of the Internet and how the country had assured that it would permit open access during the Olympics to journalists, only to pull away from that promise when the Games actually began.

"We focused on raising awareness of 'The Great Firewall of China,' the state sponsored information filtering apparatus that monitors and controls e-mails and Web sites within China," Michael Wohl, the nonprofit's executive director, said at a press conference on August 7. "The Great Firewall is a tool used by the Chinese government to stifle grassroots dissent and prevent the freedoms of speech and press. U.S. corporations play a roll in aiding and abetting the implementation of the Great Firewall of China. Though the issue is complex, it requires substantially more public discussion on how U.S. information technology is being used to deny 1.3 billion people fundamental rights."

Wohl told the AP that he believes the Chinese government blocked access to the iTunes Store when the Art of Peace Foundation publicized this week that more than 40 Olympic athletes had downloaded the digital album in solidarity with the Tibetan cause.