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Chinese government bans people from registering web addresses

Individuals in China will no longer be allowed to register .cn domain names, the government-controlled domain name registry has said. It is unclear what the fate of existing personal internet addresses will be.15 Dec 2009

Only businesses and government departments will be allowed to register domain names from now on, acccording to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), which runs China's domain name registry.

"Domain name applicants need to submit the formal paper based application material when making the online application to the registrar," said a new set of instructions published by the CNNIC. "The application material includes the original application form with business seal, company business license (photocopy), and registrant ID (photocopy)."

The instructions mean that anybody submitting an application for a domain name without the authority of a business will not have it accepted.

The CNNIC said that the action was being taken "in order to further enhance the authenticity, accuracy, and integrality of the domain name registration information".

The CNNIC told the South China Morning Post that the changes were designed to reduce the hosting of obscene material on personal websites.

But the change could be part of an attempt to clamp down on independent, non-government sanction news, according to Peter Bullock, a Hong Kong-based partner at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. Bullock is a domain name arbitrator in the region.

"Whilst it is true that the Chinese government has been trying to stamp out the proliferation of pornography on the internet in China, this latest move looks not only draconian but somewhat self-defeating," he said. "Another target of the authorities is likely to be personal blogs - which have become immensely popular within China and are a mushrooming resource for those looking for information."

"China's laws proscribe any news reporting which is released in advance of publication by the official news agency Xinhua," said Bullock. "Blogs, if they are to be informative, tend to transgress this rule. As always with China's regulations, it is not immediately clear how (or whether) they will be enforced."