Baidu in the Crosshairs [11:18 am]
The world’s biggest music companies are suing Baidu, the mainland search engine that captivated Wall Street investors, for copyright infringement in a move that could force the company to shut down its MP3 search engine, a key to the company’s popularity among young Chinese Internet users.
Universal, EMI, Warner, Sony BMG and their local subsidiaries, Cinepoly, Go East and Gold Label, are suing the search company in a Beijing court for infringing the copyright of hundreds of songs.
They allege that the search service makes it easy for users to listen to and download illegal copies of their songs, said a source close to the music companies. [...]
[...] What has drawn the industry’s ire is the ease with which Internet users can use Baidu’s search engine to locate copies of music stored on the Web, even to the point of organizing songs into Top 10 lists by category. When a user clicks on a particular song, the engine provides a direct link to the url where the file is stored.
Since the search process is automatic, Baidu argues that it is simply providing the basic service offered by all search engines, and is not itself involved in any copyright infringement. In addition, it promises to remove the link if a company can prove it owns the right to a song. “This practice is consistent with legal requirements of PRC law,” Baidu said last night.
The industry, however, argues that a Chinese court, in an earlier case, ruled MP3 searches were illegal.