Baidu facing copyright infringement lawsuit

Video controversy

Chinese search giant Baidu is being sued for 300 million yuan (£31m) over alleged copyright infringement.

The lawsuit is being pursued by a group of China's biggest online video providers, including Sohu, Tencent, LeTV and Youku.

The group, which has dubbed itself Joint Action Against Online Video Piracy in China, called a press conference in Beijing earlier today to announce the lawsuit, and took to the stage accompanied by a big red 'no' sign.

The group claims that Baidu is providing access to pirated videos, by using software to aggregate or 'grab' video from other sources. This content is then available to view on Baidu's video search website, mobile app and desktop player. An official statement claimed:

"Baidu is distributing content without authorization while engaging in activities that are beyond the scope of a search engine. Via hotlinks, users are able to access content hosted on third party sites. Such content can be viewed using Baidu video applications while Baidu takes advantage of licensed content, storage and bandwidth of third party video sites."

Sohu CEO Charles Zhang added: "We can't continue to compete in the situation because law-abiding people can't survive in a place where robbers and thieves rampage."

Tackling piracy

Baidu's statement in reaction to the press conference reiterated the importance it places on copyright protection. A spokesperson said the site has blocked links to more than 5.8 million videos since June.

Online video is big business in China, with advertising on these sites predicted to be worth 16.2bn yuan (£1.7bn) in 2014.

Google has previously faced similar criticism for its role in piracy. The company regularly updates its Transparency Report to show which copyright owners have requested the removal of copyrighted material, and which sites they were removed from. Google's search algorithm also penalises domains with a high number of removal requests.

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword commented: "Online video piracy is of course an important issue for search engines and content providers to address. However, the way the lawsuit was announced and the way the other companies are talking suggests the primary aim may be to stir up bad publicity for Baidu."

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