Artists’ songs among 100 that music websites must remove because they had not been submitted for approval.

This article titled “Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Backstreet Boys tracks on China blacklist” was written by Tania Branigan in Beijing, for The Guardian on Tuesday 23rd August 2011 15.59 UTC

The Backstreet Boys may Want It That Way, but China’s ministry of culture most certainly does not.

Officials have placed the boy band’s anodyne 1990s hit on a blacklist of 100 songs that music websites must remove by 15 September, alongside hits by Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Britney Spears.

A notice from the ministry said the songs had not been submitted for approval. A 2009 directive designed to tackle “poor taste and vulgar content” as well as copyright violations said all hosted tracks had to be cleared by officials.

The new announcement appears to apply to legal streaming and download services as well as illicit ones. It warned that unauthorised tracks – as well as unregistered sites – disturbed the online market for music and harmed national cultural security, adding that sites should carry out “self-inspection and self-correction”.

Sites which do not remove the content before 15 September will be prosecuted, unless the songs are submitted for approval. Only their owners can do that.

How the officials picked out the 100 titles on the list remains a mystery. Although some are recent releases, the Backstreet Boys track is already 12 years old. Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night has lyrics about streaking in a park, drinking shots and a menage a trois, and Beyoncé’s Run the World (Girls) includes the implied profanity of the line: “We run this mutha.” But other choices – such as the Backstreet Boys’ hit or Britney Spears’s Burning Up – are hardly racy. Most of the condemned songs are from Taiwan or Hong Kong – such as Yu Wenle’s superbly titled You Say I’m Too Handsome – but Lady Gaga leads the field with no fewer than six banned tracks: The Edge of Glory, Hair, Marry the Night, Americano, Judas and Bloody Mary.

Other outlawed titles by western artists include four by Canadian rockers Simple Plan, three by US electronic act Owl City and three by American singer-songwriter Natalie Walker.

Music sites cannot submit the songs for approval as only the owners of the material can do so. The ministry of culture did not respond to queries about the list.

Tracks by Eminem, Christina Aguilera and Kylie Minogue fell foul of a sweep by the ministry earlier this year. In April, officials said they would punish 14 sites that had provided illegal downloads. The ministry also controls events such as concerts. In 2006 it reportedly banned the Rolling Stones from singing such risque numbers as Let’s Spend the Night Together and Honky Tonk Women when they played in China – though apparently Start Me Up slipped past the censors.

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