Baidu search engine set to face copyright lawsuit

By Xie Yu (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-19 11:40
Large Medium Small

Baidu, China's biggest search engine, is set to face a lawsuit for allegedly pirating from the country's leading online literature website, Shanda Literature Limited (SDL).

Baidu is the latest leading search engine to be entangled in high-profile legal action after Google was sued by Chinese novelist Mian Mian for alleged copyright infringement this week.

"Baidu's connivance at net piracy leads to over one billion yuan of losses to our company every year," claimed SDL CEO Hou Xiaoqiang.

His company will sue Baidu in January, he said. It will ask Baidu to delete illegal download links and pay indemnity of more than one million yuan.

The three websites owned by SDL boast the largest Internet portal in the world dedicated to original works of literature. SDI said the three websites have already accumulated copyrights to almost 40 billion Chinese characters-worth of original Chinese literature. The highest daily page view volume has exceeded 500 million.

VIP members of the SDL sites pay 0.02 yuan per thousand words of books. However, SDL claims Baidu is providing numerous links that offer free illegal downloads of works written by their contracted writers.

"Each one of the top 10 hot books in SDL has five million search results in Baidu. But it is ridiculous and unacceptable that the overwhelming majority of these are illegal download links," said SDL.

Baidu was not available for comment on Friday.

Protection of copyright on the Internet is arousing attention in China. Negotiations have continued since last month between Chinese authors and Google. The authors claim Google scanned 18,000 books by 570 Chinese writers without paying the writers.

Experts and officials from China and the United States gathered for the first time in Beijing on Friday for a Sino-US symposium about the protection of copyright on the Internet.

Statistics show lawsuits regarding intellectual property on the Internet jumped by 200 percent in Shanghai.

Last Saturday, hundreds of downloading websites were shut down, and China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said sites offering free movie and music downloads must solve "copyright problems" if they want to reopen.

However, while many netizens expressed support for the activity, others pointed out that, in addition to closing down illegal sites with "copyright problems", licensed sites should expand their resources and offer more convenient services with fast connection speeds and reasonable prices.

Zheng Shengli, a professor with the Intellectual Property College of Peking University, said the US is taking a leading role in Internet development. The nation's experience in dealing with online copyright protection could also be utilized in China.

Si Xiao, director of the Legal Department of Tencent Company, said the US offers an example of how to both protect copyright owners and benefit netizens.

"For example, Apple Itunes charged every song for $0.99, and has already sold out 6 billion songs. Experience like this could inspire the Chinese," he said.