Baidu fails to satisfy writers over copyrights
By Cheng Yingqi and Cang Wei (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-31

BEIJING - Baidu, the largest Chinese-language search engine, has failed to satisfy Chinese writers by deleting digital files that infringe on copyrights from its online library. Meanwhile, musicians in the country are getting organized to challenge Baidu over its alleged failure to protect copyrights.

Baidu issued a notice saying it had removed all questionable works from its online library, Baidu Wenku, by noon on Tuesday. It has also blocked users from uploading copyrighted literary works, but not other types of books, Beijing Times reported.

"We welcome the latest action taken by Baidu, but it should make further efforts to eradicate piracy," said Zhang Hongbo, deputy director general of the China Written Works Copyright Society, a non-governmental organization that started the movement to protect copyrights in China.

According to Zhang, Baidu has only deleted certain literary works from its library, while leaving untouched other kinds of digital books that are nonetheless under copyright protection, such as books on foreign languages and on computers.

By noon on Wednesday, the number of literary works in Baidu Wenku had dropped to 1,100 from 2.8 million. Even so, the library contains 17 million digital works on education, entertainment, technology and other topics.

Baidu's latest troubles began on March 15, when 50 Chinese writers published a declaration accusing the company of copyright infringement in its online library, which was started in 2009 and at first allowed users to download and upload digital files free of charge without regard to copyrights.

"Baidu is responsible for digital piracy even if users upload pirated books onto its website," said Zhang. "Baidu has the obligation to establish a supervision system to check the qualifications of users who upload files."

Zhu Guang, vice-president of Baidu, told National Business News that Baidu intends to respond to the complaints of writers and publishers by introducing new technologies in mid-April, and will work more closely with publishers and writers to protect copyrights.

In answer, Shen Haobo, a publisher and a representative of writers, published a statement on his micro blog on Wednesday, saying that even though Baidu has deleted 2.8 million literary works that infringed upon copyrights, it has not abolished the means by which such works can be uploaded to its site.

Zhang Hongbo said Baidu's letting users upload works without weeding out those that are copyrighted is "equal to the encouragement of piracy and must be stopped".

Meanwhile, 10 mainland writers of pop music, including Gao Xiaosong, Zhang Yadong, Xiao Ke and Cui Jian, established a advocacy group on the Sina micro blog in protest of Baidu.

By 1 pm on Wednesday, the group contained 31 members and more were joining.

"Baidu had contacted us for negotiations, and we are planning to hold a conference over the weekend to elect our representatives," according to the blog of Gao Xiaosong, a music writer.

China Daily reached Liang Kangni, who is in charge of online music at Baidu, but Liang did not respond to the message on Gao's micro blog.

According to the latest report released by the Ministry of Culture, the revenue generated by online music in China increased by 14.4 percent in 2010, and rampant piracy is the biggest barrier to even faster growth.

AFP contributed to this story.