Posted February 6, 2008 7:55 pm by with 12 comments

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Chinese search engines are being sued after ignoring copyright laws on music downloads. This isn’t new or surprising news because China is a bit of a free-for-all when it comes to copyright issues.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), an association representing the recording industry worldwide, over 99 percent of all music files distributed in China is pirated. And of course, most movies and software in China are pirated too. While this is business as usual, and the record companies are trying to reign things in.

First, the biggest search engine in China Baidu, is being sued by three music industry giants. They’ll be up against Universal Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Hong Kong), and Warner Music Hong Kong. They companies are asking a court in Beijing to order Baidu to remove all links to their music.

The same companies, along with Gold Label Entertainment are suing another search engine called Sogou for the same reason. Yahoo China was already sued and lost but they haven’t complied with the ruling made this past December. IFPI estimates the size of the music market in China for legitimate music market is $76 million. That’s less than 1 percent of global recorded music sales.

What about Google China – the second most popular search engine in China? They are taking the moral high road to China and a longer term approach. Instead of getting ahead with pirated music, they are working on offering music legally.

Google is planning partnerships with music companies. Today The Wall Street Journal reported that they are teaming up with three large music companies and other small music ones to offer free downloads. The service is expected to start soon — in the next few weeks.

Google is playing catchup in China but CEO Eric Schmidt says they will surpass Baidu which has about 60% of the market. Last April, he boldly predicted, “Our investment is working and we will eventually be the leader.”

Disclosure: I own Baidu stock, thanks to the high price of Google and because it’s the first company in China to trade on NASDAQ.

  • I guess they are going to have to follow suit and start paying attention to the copyright laws.

    Record labels are getting more and more aggressive in going after piracy due to the loss in sales.

    I’m surprised that China is so loose about music piracy, seeing as though they are so tough on everything else internet related.

  • Most of the pirated movies actually come from China, especially the ones on torrents and other sites that reach a worldwide audience.

  • Over in the Philippines they have a pirated version of pretty much everything ready available for sale on the streets, and I assume they all come from China because they all have Chinese characters on them.

  • Zen

    @ Jason: “I guess they are going to have to follow suit and start paying attention to the copyright laws.”

    They can always do what the big G did and apply a “nofollow” 😀

  • I can totally understand that the record companies are up in arms against these search engines. Piracy is apparently most rampant in China.

  • Trust Google to be in the right place a the right time doing the right thing. They manage to turn any situation to their advantage.

  • Wow, that’s quite a lot of pirated music. This was a very educational post for me.

  • Pingback: Chinese Search Engines Sued over Pirated Music at Internet Resource Blog, Review, Technology, Guides On

  • It is a lot of piracy music not only on Chinese search engines 🙂

  • All countries became to pay attention to the copywrite laws. In Russia at 1 of January began a new law, and a lot of torrents were closed.

  • Theres a huge difference between american and chinese law. The court systems are radically different. It will be interesting to see what materializes.

  • nice article.