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Music Labels Square Off Against Chinese Search Engines

Three global record companies have launched legal proceedings against China's top Internet search engine Baidu.com, accusing it of violating copyright by giving access to music files, an international music trade body said.

Universal Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Hong Kong) and Warner Music Hong Kong have asked a court to order Baidu to remove all links on its music delivery service to copyright-infringing tracks that they own the rights to, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said in a statement.

The claims have been filed with a court in Beijing, said IFPI, which is backed by global music industry heavyweights.

Separate action is also being taken by Universal, Sony and Warner as well as Gold Label Entertainment against Chinese media firm Sohu.com and its search engine, Sogou, the statement added.

Yahoo China also faces proceedings after refusing to comply with a December ruling by the Beijing Higher People's Court which confirmed that the company violated Chinese law by committing mass copyright infringement, IFPI added.

Spokesmen for the three Chinese companies and court officials could not be reached for comment.

In December, IFPI said the Beijing Higher People's Court upheld a ruling that Yahoo China violates Chinese law by facilitating mass copyright infringement through music downloads.

"The music industry in China wants partnership with the technology companies -- but you cannot build partnership on the basis of systemic theft of copyrighted music and that is why we have been forced to take further actions," IFPI CEO John Kennedy said in the statement.

IFPI said that more than 99 percent of all music files distributed in China are pirated, and the country's total legitimate music market, at $76 million, accounts for less than 1 percent of global recorded music sales.