Leading Chinese Internet company and search engine Baidu has been ordered to pay a fine of 550,000 yuan (about US$85,000) for distributing pirated copies of five novels, according to a report in the Shanghai Daily. The Luwan District People’s Court ruled that Baidu pay compensation to Qidian.com, which owns online rights to the books. Qidian sued Baidu in March 2010 over the novels, claiming users could use Baidu to find links to pirated versions of the five novels.
Baidu apparently intends to file an appeal in the case.
The case is another indication of the difficulty Baidu faces in dealing with pirated content widely available via Chinese Internet sites—and particularly when that content is stored on its own services by users or indexed via its search engines. Last month, China’s ministry of culture indicated it planned to “punish” Baidu and other sites for hosting and publishing links to illegal music downloads; Baidu is also involved in an ongoing distpute with authors, after removing some 3 million pirated items from its “Baidu LIbrary” service. Baidu has announced a plan whereby it will attempt to pay royalties on music downloaded through its service, and says it wants to discuss a similar arrangement with authors.
Baidu is China’s largest search engine, and has been frequently criticized for hosting and providing deep links to pirated content.