Yahoo! China has lost a lawsuit filed
by 11 major record companies in which it stood accused of playing music
illegally and allowing netizens to download tracks free of charge.
The Beijing Second Intermediary Court on Tuesday ordered
Yahoo China to pay 200,000 yuan (about 27,200 U.S. dollars) in damages to the 11
companies which include EMI, Warner Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and
Universal Music Group. It also told Yahoo China to delete the links to the free
The record companies launched the court proceedings in
early January, saying that the music had been played or downloaded without their
permission, and demanded 5.5 million yuan (about 712,000 U.S. dollars) in
Yahoo China insists that, as a search engine, it only
provides links in its music search results and should not be held responsible
for the content of third-party websites.
The company issued a statement on line on Tuesday, saying
the company treats intellectual property rights protection very seriously, and
has always abided by Chinese law.
It also said search engines are used to quickly access
and present information that users need, and search engine operators cannot
foresee and control the content to which they provide links.
It said the company will appeal for protection of its own
legal rights and also for the development of the whole industry.
Xu Yang, Yahoo China's publicity director, said
"Baidu.com was cleared of similar charges last year. If any mistake has been
made, Baidu made the same one. The argument in both cases is essentially the
Last November, Baidu.com, one of China's largest internet
search engines, was found not guilty in a similar lawsuit launched by seven
companies that accused it of helping users to download music illegally. The case
was led by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
Beijing's First Intermediate Court ruled that Baidu's
service, which provides web links to the music, does not constitute an
infringement as all the music is downloaded from web servers of third parties.
The record companies appealed to a higher court after
losing the lawsuit, but the ruling has yet to be made.
Baidu argued that the MP3 search engine it provided was
the same as other search engines providing links to web pages, news and
It said it searched all music file formats on the
internet, such as ".mp3" or ".wav", making no distinction between copyrighted
and pirated songs.
"If the music companies had won, the whole search engine
sector would have ground to a halt," a Baidu spokesman said at the time.
Chinese online auction sites operator Alibaba took over
Yahoo Inc's China business in 2005, and Yahoo bought a 40 percent stake in