ITunes access returns to China following block

After having lost complete access to iTunes for nearly a week, for reasons that may have had to do with the music store featuring an album supporting Tibetan freedom, users in China report they can download music once again.

The first reports of connectivity issues surfaced on Monday, in timing that seemed to coincide with iTunes' release of a pro-Tibet album. While access to that particular album still appears to be restricted, the rest of the store returned this week.

Confirmation of both iTunes' block, and the subsequent lift, was given by Apple. However, the Cupertino company has declined to elaborate further about its nature or cause, leaving that to speculation.

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Since there is no iTunes Music Store in China, residents must use the stores of other countries in order to download music. Thus, it is harder for the Government to exert control over the content within. Nonetheless, individual iTunes entries have unique URLs regardless of what country's portal is being used to access them; and apparently Chinese ISPs are now blocking access to these specific URLs, rather than to iTunes as a whole.

Art of Peace Foundation, the group behind Songs for Tibet, claimed its album was released to test the Chinese on their commitments to free speech. As part of its bid for the Olympic Games, China agreed to relax its controls on the Web. It briefly attempted to bypass these requirements early on by censoring some foreign news sites, however criticism forced it to reverse its stance. So far the Chinese government has refused to comment on the block.

A Chinese government Web site which talks about Internet issues did make mention of the pro-Tibet album on August 8. In an article on China.org.cn, the album's release "ignited strong indignation among Chinese netizens," the state-run Web site reads.

"Some say they will boycott all Apple products from now on, including the popular iPhone, which is not available in China since negotiations among Apple, China Mobile and China Unicom broke down," the article claims, without citing any actual sources.

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