All websites with their own domain name that are hosted on the Chinese mainland territory are required to obtain such ICP license. Websites that are hosted outside of the Chinese mainland territory do not need to obtain an ICP license. Interestingly also websites hosted on the Hong-Kong SAR territory do not need to obtain an ICP license.
Therefore obtaining an ICP license is an additional step that shall be taken before launching a website hosted on Chinese server.
The so called ICP license is a registration number and a permit issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) to operate websites in China. ICP stands for Internet Content Provider and it is also known as ICP备案 or ICP Bei An (that literally means "ICP registration/filing"). The license regime was set for by the Telecommunications Regulations of the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国电信条例) in September 2000.
The ICP license numbers for Chinese websites can often be found on the footer of the homepage of the website. The ICP license number includes also a single Chinese character indicating the Chinese province in which the license was issued. See herein for example.
Chinese Internet service providers are required to block the site if a license is not acquired within a grace period. Therefore in the practice without an ICP, the website operator is unable to purchase hosting in mainland China, because all hosts will ask for the ICP license before providing the service.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issues two different types of ICP numbers, which are managed at the provincial level:
- ICP filing for non-commercial websites which are purely informational and are not involved in direct sales. These numbers follow the format 京ICP备12345678号 (in this example, "京" represents Beijing).
- ICP license for commercial websites is required for websites that sells information or data behind a paywall (contrary to popular beliefs an e-commerce website does not need a Commercial ICP License). These numbers follow the format 京ICP证12345678号 (in this example, "京" represents Beijing).
Requirements for ICP filing in Beijing
ICP filing is regulated by local regulations in each province. In general requirements are similar in very province and – as example – we report herein the ones fixed by Beijing municipality.
The core requirement for obtaining either type of ICP registration is that your website abides by the content laws in China and - in short - “should not contain materials related to terrorism, explosives, drugs, jurisprudence, gambling, and other illegal acts”.
In addition the following requirements and documents shall be prepared and provided:
- The domain name must be registered from a China-based domain name provider.
- The ICP Filing subject must be the domain name owner.
- For personal, a scanned copy or photo of the front and back of the ID card is required.
- For company, a scanned copy or photo of the company’s registration certificate, and scanned copies or photos of the front and back of the ID cards of the persons in charge of ICP Filing and the website.
- Other documents required by the local communications administration, such as a domain name certificate.
It is important to highlight that the information provided to MIIT might change from time to time and therefore the ICP license shall be updated. If by a random check the MIIT will find not updated information a notice for rectification will be issued. In the lack of rectification the website will be shut down and the company might be blacklisted by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
In addition from 2016, all website operators with an ICP number are also required to log on to the Public Security Bureau (PSB) Filing website (only available in Chinese) to complete a PSB Filing. Applicants must submit a PSB ICP Filing application after their ICP Filing or ICP Commercial License is approved by MIIT and within 30 days of their website going live.