Chinese music industry groups file suit against Baidu

SHANGHAI Thu Feb 28, 2008 8:51am GMT

A staff member of Baidu.com near the door at the company's headquarters in Beijing is seen in this picture taken on August 5, 2005. REUTERS/China Newsphoto

A staff member of Baidu.com near the door at the company's headquarters in Beijing is seen in this picture taken on August 5, 2005.

Credit: Reuters/China Newsphoto

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Two industry groups representing China's local musicians and songwriters have filed a lawsuit against the country's Web search leader, Baidu.com Inc, accusing it of copyright violation.

The move signalled that domestic artists as well as international firms are disgruntled at the firm's free music search service.

Baidu, whose search engine allows users to listen to and search for song files for free, is taking advantage of China's relatively unsophisticated music industry to boost its advertising income, Music Copyright Society of China and digital music distributor R2G said in a statement.

The firms had filed a suit in Beijing in January, and are calling for Baidu to immediately halt copyright violations and offer compensation, the statement added but did not give further details.

"This lawsuit is just the beginning," the statement quoted Music Copyright Society executive Qu Jingming of China as saying.

A spokesperson for Baidu could not be reached for comment.

Baidu led China's 946.6 million yuan (67 million pound) search engine market in last year's fourth quarter with a 60.1 percent share, according to research firm Analysys International.

Google Inc came second with a 25.9 percent share, followed by Yahoo China with 9.6 percent.

Earlier this month, three global record companies have launched legal proceedings against Baidu, accusing it of violating copyright by giving access to music files.

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

IFPI has 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 (38 million pounds), accounts for less than 1 percent of global recorded music sales.

(Reporting by Sophie Taylor; editing by Ken Wills)

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