Five Music Companies Sue Baidu

Baidu sued over music downloads from the Hong, from the Hong Kong Standard, reports that several large music companies are suing Chinese search engine Baidu for allegedly making hundreds of songs easily accessible via their MP3 search tool. The companies filing the lawsuit are Universal, EMI, Warner, Sony BMG and their local subsidiaries, Cinepoly, Go East and Gold Label.

What has drawn the industry’s ire is the ease with which Internet users can use Baidu’s search engine to locate copies of music stored on the Web, even to the point of organizing songs into Top 10 lists by category. When a user clicks on a particular song, the engine provides a direct link to the URL where the file is stored.

Since the search process is automatic, Baidu argues that it is simply providing the basic service offered by all search engines, and is not itself involved in any copyright infringement. In addition, it promises to remove the link if a company can prove it owns the right to a song. “This practice is consistent with legal requirements of PRC law,” Baidu said last night.

The industry, however, argues that a Chinese court, in an earlier case, ruled MP3 searches were illegal.

Prior to Baidu’s IPO, some speculated that copyright issues might be a concern for the company. We also blogged a report about Baidu removing links to thousands of pirated files from their database.

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