The Provisional Regulations for the Administration of Internet Publishing (the "Regulation") were promulgated by the State Press and Publications Administration and the Ministry of Information Industry on 17th June 2002 and came into force on 1st August 2002.
Approval for conducting "Internet publishing" activities in PRC is now mandatory. "Internet publishing" is defined as online transmission by Internet service providers, posting on the Internet, or sending contents of publications such as books, newspapers, periodicals, audio products, video products to user terminals through the Internet. Under the Regulations, people conducting Internet publishing business must (a) comply with the PRC Constitution and the relevant laws and regulations; (b) serve the people and socialism; (c) transmit ideological, moral, scientific, technical and cultural knowledge for the people; and (d) enrich the cultural life of the people.
Prohibited contents include contents which:
- Violate the fundamental principles of the Constitution;
- Undermine national unity, sovereignty or territorial integrity;
- Disseminate state secrets, endanger national security or harm the reputation or interest of PRC;
- Incite racial hatred or racial discrimination, undermine racial unity or ethnical customs and practices;
- Propagate cults or superstition;
- Spread rumors, causes social disorder or undermines social stability;
- Propagate obscenity, gambling or violence or incite people to commit crimes;
- Are defamatory or that intrude upon the lawful rights and interests of others;
- Undermine public morals or cultural traditions; and
- Are prohibited by laws and administrative regulations of the State.
To conduct Internet publishing business, one must:
- Ensure that the Articles of Association of the company contain a clear and definite scope of publishing activities;
- Have editing and publishing units and professional personnel;
- Have funds, equipment and sites suitable for publishing business;
- Apply to the Press and Publication Department of the province, autonomous regions or municipality under central administration. After examination and consent from the said Department, approval must be obtained from the State Press and Publication Administration;
- Apply to the Ministry of Information Industry for conducting the Internet information services as well.
The following materials must be submitted:
- An application form issued by the State Press and Publication Administration:
- The Articles of Association of the company;
- The source and amount of funds and a certification of creditworthiness of such;
- The credentials of the legal representatives and the professional responsible for editing and technical support together with certificates in support;
- The certificate for the use of the working premises (e.g. title deeds or tenancy agreement)
It normally takes 60 days to obtain approval. Once approved, the Internet publishing organization must put the approval number on its home page. They must also start the business of Internet publishing within 180 days from the date of approval or registration. Otherwise, the Press and Publication Department may cancel the registration.
The Internet publishing organization must also:
- Implement an "editorial responsibility system" in that there must be full-time editorial staff to examine and ensure the legality of the Internet publication content;
- Keep back-up records of all the contents for 60 days for inspection; and
- Comply with the copyright laws and regulations and state the copyright ownership.
If one carries out Internet publishing activities without approval, the press and publication department of the province, autonomous region or municipality under central administration will stop such illegal activities and confiscate the illegal proceeds and the principal equipment and tools for carrying on such illegal activities. If the illegal proceeds are under RMB 10,000, a fine from RMB 10,000 to 50,000 will be imposed. If the illegal proceeds are RMB 10,000 or more, a fine of 5 to 10 times the illegal proceeds will be imposed. If one posts prohibited contents on the web-page, the same fine will be imposed and if it is considered a serious case by the authorities, an order to cease operation or to rectify the problem within a time limit will be made.
Any failure to post the approval number on the web-page could result in receiving a warning letter and a payment of a fine from RMB 10,000 to 50,000 and any failure to keep the back-up records as required could result in the website being shut down temporarily.