Music giants Universal, EMI Group Plc, Warner Music Group Corp, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and their local subsidiaries are suing China's largest search engine Baidu.com Inc (百度) for allegedly infringing the copyright of hundreds of songs, the company said yesterday.
"We confirm that Baidu is being sued over alleged infringement of music copyright," said Baidu's vice president of marketing, Liang Dong (
The music companies allege Baidu has made it easy for users to download illegal copies of their songs via its MP3 search engine, the Hong Kong-based Standard newspaper reported, citing a source close to the music companies.
Cinepoly, Go East and Gold Label are also suing Baidu in a move that could force it to shut down the MP3 search engine, a key to the company's popularity among young Chinese Internet users, the report said.
Liang said Baidu only provides a music search service rather than downloads and added that the firm was communicating with the plaintiffs.
He was reported to have met several music company executives on Wednesday to discuss copyright issues, the Standard cited a source as saying, adding the goal was to "cooperate and make a platform for legal music downloads."
"From the copyright point of view, we think differently than the music companies. Baidu is just a platform for music search," he said.
Liang added that music companies were not well-prepared to embrace the digital music era and encouraged them to explore new business models to provide a legal platform for music search.
Although the music companies are seeking compensation, what they most want is the suspension of services that allow Internet users to gain free access to copyrighted material, the newspaper said.
Shanghai Busheng Music Culture Media also filed a lawsuit against Baidu in June alleging unauthorized downloads.
Baidu holds a leading share of China's search market at 37.4 percent.
Its stock sale last month on NASDAQ was one of the year's hottest initial public offerings -- with its shares surging 354 percent in one day, prompting some market watchers to nickname it the "Chinese Google."
Baidu shares rose 0.8 percent to US$82 in NASDAQ trading on Thursday.