Beijing court confirms Yahoo China's music service violates copyright
Beijing, 20th December 2007
The international recording industry today hailed a landmark Beijing court ruling confirming that Yahoo China’s music delivery service violates Chinese law by facilitating mass copyright infringement.
Yahoo China, part-owned by one of the world’s biggest internet companies, Yahoo Inc, runs an operation enabling users to search for, play and download pirate music without ever leaving its website. Yahoo China’s appeal against a guilty verdict in April was today dismissed by the Beijing Court.
The decision is made under new Chinese copyright laws which entered into force in 2006. The Court separately ruled on a similar case against internet company, Baidu which had been brought under the previous Chinese copyright laws. The ruling confirmed that Baidu participated with and assisted third party sites in transmitting infringing music, but under the old laws Baidu was not liable for copyright infringement.
Music search services such as Yahoo China’s and Baidu’s, which “deep link” users to hundreds of thousands of pirate tracks, are a huge drain on efforts to develop a legitimate music market in China. Despite enormous market potential, music sales in China totalled US$76 million in 2006, less than one per cent of the global recorded music market.
Over 99 per cent of all music downloading in China infringes copyright, and services such as Yahoo China and Baidu account for the bulk of the problem.
John Kennedy, Chairman and CEO of IFPI, said: “The ruling against Yahoo China is extremely significant in clarifying copyright rules for internet music services in China.
“By confirming that Yahoo China’s service violates copyright under new Chinese laws, the Beijing Court has effectively set the standard for internet companies throughout the country.
“We are disappointed that the court did not find Baidu liable, but that judgment was about Baidu’s actions in the past under an old law that is no longer in force. The judgment is irrelevant since it has effectively been superseded by the Yahoo China ruling. Baidu should now prepare to have its actions judged under the new law. We are confident a court would hold Baidu liable as it has Yahoo China.
“China could be a fantastic digital music market if internet companies like Yahoo China, and their owners, commit themselves to respecting copyright and protecting creators and producers.
“Our member companies seek partnership, not conflict, with China’s internet companies – but that partnership has to be based on proper respect for intellectual property rights. What is deeply regrettable is that Yahoo China repeatedly walked away from the chance to pioneer a legitimate music service in partnership with record companies and instead chose to engage in lengthy and needless litigation.”
IFPI first wrote to Yahoo China in April 2006 on behalf of its members, asking the service to take the necessary steps to stop the infringement of record companies’ rights. Yahoo China began to negotiate with IFPI but subsequently walked away from those talks. Legal proceedings were filed in January 2007.
Eleven separate claims were brought against Yahoo China by local and international record companies, who presented evidence of widespread infringement of their copyrights. The claims filed concerned infringement of tracks by international artists such as U2 and Destiny’s Child, as well as local repertoire performed by singers such as Penny Tai and Kelly Chen.
The internet company was found liable for facilitating mass copyright infringement in April 2007 by the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court, but appealed the verdict to the Beijing Higher People’s Court, which upheld the earlier ruling today.
Yahoo China is a subsidiary of the Alibaba Group, in which Yahoo! Inc has a 44 per cent stake and is represented on the board.
In September 2005 IFPI filed claims on behalf of Gold Label, Go East, Cinepoly, EMI, Warner, Universal and Sony BMG – in the Beijing No.1 Intermediate Court regarding a total of 195 sound recordings claiming infringement of the record companies’ rights by Baidu for providing sound recordings to the public by means of streaming or download via the mp3.baidu.com site. In November 2006 the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People’s Court ruled that Baidu was not infringing and IFPI appealed on behalf of Go East, Cinepoly, Warner, Universal and Sony BMG to the Beijing Higher People’s Court who upheld that earlier ruling today.
NOTES TO EDITORS
IFPI is the organisation that promotes the interests of the international recording industry worldwide. Its membership comprises some 1,400 major and independent companies in more than 75 countries. It also has affiliated industry national groups in 49 countries. IFPI’s mission is to promote the value of recorded music, safeguard the rights of record producers and expand the commercial uses of recorded music in all markets where its members operate.For further information contact:
Adrian Strain or Alex Jacob, IFPI London
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org