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Back Miscellaneous 2008 Baidu.com Attempts to Soothe Music Industry

Baidu.com Attempts to Soothe Music Industry

Mediation begins in music copyright trial involving China's largest search engine.
Four music giants and their local subsidiaries have entered mediation with Baidu.com, China's largest Internet search engine over the recording companies' claims of copyright infringement.

The companies including Universal, Warner, EMI and Sony BMG are suing the Nasdaq-listed Baidu.com whose MP3 search technology provide links to websites which allegedly allows users to illegally download copyrighted music.

Universal, EMI, Warner, Sony BMG and local subsidiaries claim that Baidu made it easy for its users to illegally download copies of 137 of their songs through the mp3.baidu.com search page. The music companies are seeking 1.67 million yuan, or $206,000, in compensation, the China Daily newspaper said.

The plaintiffs, who also include Cinepoly, Go East and Gold Label, local subsidiaries of the international music giants, said the judge would settle the case if the issue cannot be resolved through mediation.

On Sept. 16, the People's Court of Haidian District in Beijing ordered Baidu to pay 68,000 yuan, or about $8,400, to mainland music company Shanghai Busheng Music Culture Media, EMI’s distributor in China for unauthorized downloads of 46 songs. Baidu is appealing.

The Chinese company - nicknamed the Chinese Google - agreed to try mediation, the China Daily said.

No agreement was reached after more than five hours of discussions that began at the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, the official China Daily newspaper said. A judge would resolve the issue if there is no resolution.

A man who answered the phone at the court said the case was still under mediation but said he was unclear about what progress had made. He refused to give his name.

Baidu.com Is Appealing The Decision.
According to the China Daily, Baidu defended itself by saying that it is simply providing basic search functions, not downloading services. The company also says it advocates improving copyright protection on the Internet and promises to provide protection if a company can prove it owns the rights to a song, the newspaper said.

Baidu's lawyer, Li Decheng of the Zhonglun W&D Law Firm in Beijing, said that he could not comment on the case without his client's permission. Cynthia He, a Beijing spokeswoman for Baidu, said the company had no comment.

Declined to comment, only to say they hope for an outcome satisfactory to all sides. Baidu defended itself, adding that it was willing to work with music companies to explore new business models to provide a legal platform for music searches. At a five-and-a-half-hour hearing, plaintiffs asked Baidu to immediately stop providing online displays and download services for the songs, the report said.

Baidu's MP3 search page is hugely popular among young, increasingly tech-savvy Chinese. Analysts say it has grown into China's largest search engine, prompting U.S. search giant Google Inc. to buy 2.6 percent of the company last year.

For Baidu, however, MP3 searches are a core part of its business, accounting for some 22 percent of its online traffic.

Netease, one of the top three web portals in China, recently shut down its MP3 search function over similar concerns.

Until the outcome, Internet users currently may use Baidu's search engine to locate copies of music stored on the web. When a user clicks on a particular song, the engine provides a direct link to the site where the file is stored.