Labels' suit targets Baidu links


TOKYO -- The IFPI is stepping up its campaign against Internet piracy in China.

The international labels body said that legal proceedings were filed Monday by member labels against China's biggest Internet company, Beijing-based Baidu, as well as Web portal Sohu (also based in Beijing) and associated company Sogou for their practice of "deep-linking" to Web sites offering unauthorized music downloads.

The IFPI also says that 11 record companies, including the four international majors, that won a legal victory against Yahoo China in a similar case last April, have filed execution proceedings against Yahoo China, asking the court to force the Beijing-based portal to comply with the judgment. On Dec. 19, Yahoo China lost an appeal against the ruling at the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court.

Despite that verdict, the Yahoo China Web site continues to offer deep links.

Dec. 19 also saw another Beijing court acquit Baidu following an IFPI-led appeal of a 2006 ruling that had found it not guilty of copyright infringement.

The IFPI says its appeal failed because the original case was brought in 2005, before the government introduced streamlined regulations clarifying content/service providers' liability. The successful suit against Yahoo was filed in January 2007, in line with those regulations.

Universal Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Hong Kong) and Warner Music Hong Kong today filed a new suit against Baidu with the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court. The three companies are asking the court to order Baidu to remove all links on its music-delivery service to copyright-infringing tracks that they own the rights to.

Filing suit against Sohu and Sogou at the same court are Universal Music, Gold Label Entertainment, Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Hong Kong) and Warner Music Hong Kong. The action follows four prior notices that were sent to both companies from July 2007 onward.

Sohu is the official sponsor of Internet content service for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

"The music industry in China wants partnership with the technology companies," IFPI chairman and CEO John Kennedy said in a statement, "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."

None of the companies targeted by the IFPI-led legal actions were available for comment at press time.

Steve McClure is Billboard's Asia bureau chief.