ICP license (abbreviation for Internet Content Provider; Chinese: ICP备案; pinyin: ICP bèi'àn; lit. 'ICP registration/filing') is a permit issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) to permit China-based websites to operate in China. The ICP license numbers for Chinese websites can often be found on the bottom of the front webpage.
This license regime was instated by the Telecommunications Regulations of the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国电信条例) that was promulgated in September 2000. All websites with their own domain name that operate inside China are required to obtain a license (whether hosted on a server in mainland China or provided into China via a CDN), and China-based Internet service providers are required to block the site if a license is not acquired within a grace period. Licenses are issued at the provincial level.
Operating from China is also a prerequisite for acquiring a license. Foreign companies such as Google, unable to acquire an ICP license on their own, often partner with Chinese Internet companies to use the licenses of the Chinese company.
The Chinese government divides ICP related business activities into two categories: Basic telecommunication services (BTS) and Value-added telecommunication services (VATS). In the “Classification Catalogue of Telecommunication Services” (Chinese: 电信业务分类目录) BTS refers to providing a public network infrastructure, public data transmission and basic voice communication services. Whereas, VATS refers to public network infrastructure to provide telecommunications and information services. Details of the services requiring an ICP license are regulated in the section “B25 Information Services”.
The MIIT issues two different types of ICP numbers, which are managed at the provincial level:
- ICP license for commercial websites, which cover any website offering goods or services to customers. These numbers follow the format 京ICP证123456号 (in this example, "京" represents Beijing, "证" means license, and "号" means "No.").
- 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 or 京ICP备2021123456号 (in this example, "京" represents Beijing, "备" means "record" and "号" means "No.").
Obtaining an ICP number takes an average span of 20 business days after submission of documents to a hosting provider. If the documents are deemed valid upon review by the provider, they are forwarded onto the MIIT for further review. If at either stage the documents are rejected, the applicant is required to submit additional documents.
- State Council of the People's Republic of China (December 10, 2005). 中华人民共和国电信条例 (in Chinese). Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Archived from the original on July 31, 2008. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
- Bishop, John; Chris Myrick (February 23, 2006). "Google license issue seized by China to make political statement". Focus. Forbes. Archived from the original on May 29, 2008. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
- Lemon, Sumner (February 21, 2006). "Nothing unusual about Google borrowing ICP". InfoWorld. Archived from the original on June 18, 2008. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
- Tian, Ashley. "ICP License: How to provide online services in China". Ecovis Beijing. Archived from the original on June 26, 2019. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
-  Get an Internet Content Provider (ICP) number for your public website], Microsoft Corporation
- Ministry of Information Industry Records (in Chinese)