Copyright row between Baidu and writers probed
Updated: 2011-04-21

BEIJING - Investigations of a copyright fight between more than 40 Chinese writers and Baidu, China's largest search engine, are underway, an official with China's copyright watchdog group said Thursday.

Yan Xiaohong, deputy director of the National Copyright Administration, said during a press conference that the search engine showed a "proactive" attitude during a meeting between its senior managers and copyright authorities.

Baidu is considering a plan to overhaul Wenku, its free literary database, which has been accused of allowing literary works to become available online without authors' prior approval, Yan said.

More than 40 Chinese writers posted an open letter online on March 15, accusing Baidu of stealing their works and infringing on their copyrights by publishing and offering free downloads of their works.

Baidu said the unauthorized works were uploaded to its database by Internet users.

Negotiations between writers and Baidu broke down when Baidu turned down the writers' requests for compensation. The writers also requested a public apology and a halt to any ongoing cases of copyright infringement, both of which were denied by Baidu.

In late March, Baidu pledged to remove all unauthorized literary works from its Wenku database and establish a revenue-sharing model that will ensure copyright owners receive a share of revenues from online versions of their works.

On March 28, Robin Li, chairman and CEO of Baidu, said the company is stepping up its anti-piracy efforts and hopes to work out a mutually beneficial business proposition to settle the dispute.

The fight highlights rising public awareness of intellectual property rights protection in China, where fledgling software companies, record labels and other players in the creative industry are estimated to lose billions of yuan a year to unlicensed copying.

The Chinese government has launched crackdowns on copyright infringements in recent years, and official figures show that such campaigns are gaining ground.

According to a white paper released Tuesday by the Supreme People's Court, the country's courts concluded that 3,942 criminal cases involving IPR infringements were closed last year, up 7.7 percent from 2009.

A total of 6,000 people were found guilty of intellectual property rights infringements, according to the paper.