Pro-Tibet album may be behind China iTunes block

Users of Apple's music store in China have been reporting problems downloading music since the beginning of the week.

Chinese authorities have not directly confirmed blocking iTunes. Requests for comment have gone unanswered, or reporters have been told officials had no information on the block. However, the timing of this latest blockage seems to coincide with the release of a pro-Tibet album by the Art of Peace Foundation, which was released on Sunday.

Users across several threads in Apple's support forums are reporting issues. The first reports came in Monday, and seem to be widespread.

"I'm in Beijing as well and my iTunes store just stopped working around the 19th. This is insanely frustrating seeing as I use it almost everyday," one user reported. "I am having the same problem here in Nanchang," another thread indicates.

Forty Olympic athletes reportedly downloaded the album in solidarity with the group, with some even downloading it once they arrived in Beijing, the Foundation said. Although Chinese iPod and iPhone owners have had access to iTunes, it doesn't actually provide them with music, though it does provide iPhone users with apps. So users often find themselves logging onto overseas stores or even other services in order to download music.

Apple did confirm that some were having problems with access within China, but declined to comment further. Users reportedly complained on Apple sites in China that the ban hurt users more than it did iTunes.

BetaNews does not have a correspondent in China; however, this afternoon, we tested some verified iTunes URLs with a service from WebSitePulse created expressly to determine whether a URL is accessible from Shanghai. The service gauges response times from servers based in Shanghai and Seattle, Washington. Our tests seemed to indicate the iTunes pages we chose were not blocked, as of 3:55 pm EDT Friday afternoon.

Art of Peace is a group founded on the principles of the exiled Tibetan leader, the 14th Dalai Lama. It has been a strong critic of China's oppressive regime, and its efforts to control the flow of information both within and outside its borders.

Songs for Tibet - The Art of Peace includes songs by Sting, Alanis Morrissette, John Mayer, Moby, Dave Matthews, and others. It also includes a 15-minute message from the Dalai Lama.

Representatives for the group said they believe the release of the album may be to blame for the block, although they don't have any direct proof. It's quite possible though: China has shown to be quick in blocking anything having to do with the mountain country and the struggle of Tibet.

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