Baidu.com is China’s leading Internet search engine—and that, by sheer numbers, makes it one of the most-used search engines on the planet. Now, by way of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), music labels Warner Music Group, Sony BMG, and Universal Music Group are asking a court to order Baidu to remove all links from its index that point to music files being distributed in violation of copyright law. Moreover, the group is pursuing an earlier decision against Yahoo China on the same issues, and is taking similar action against Sohu and its associated company Sogou, which operates an ad-supported service offering links to illegally distributed music.
“China’s internet companies have a unique opportunity to demonstrate respect for copyright, take a stand against piracy and engage in responsible partnership with music companies,” said IFPI head John Kennedy, in a statement. “It’s a matter of great regret that, despite the clear precedent laid down by the Yahoo China judgment, those internet companies are instead choosing blatant violation of copyright, with the inevitable and unwanted litigation that follows in its wake.”
The battle is over so-called “deep links,” through which the search engines provide direct access to illegally distributed music. This practice, in turn, increases the engine’s user base, which means the companies earn more in advertising revenue. The IFPI has characterized the practice as “systematic theft.”
In December, the IFPI won a legal victory over Yahoo China when the Beijing Higher People’s Court ruled the company had engaged in mass copyright infringement. The company has refused to comply with the court ruling, and now faces further proceedings.
According to the IFPI, up to 99 percent of all music files distributed in China are pirated, with the country’s total legitimate music market accounting for just $76 million.
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