Music industry prepares suit against Yahoo China

A recording industry group is preparing to file a lawsuit against Yahoo China for allegedly infringing its members’ copyrights by providing links to illegal music download sites, a spokesman for the group confirmed on Tuesday.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has complained for some time that search engines in China make it too easy for users to locate pirated music available for download online.

“Baidu.com has already been found guilty of copyright infringement in the Chinese courts; China Yahoo is now in a similar position, choosing to turn a blind eye to the infringements taking place on its service instead of setting the example of responsible practice which we would expect from them,” IFPI Chairman John Kennedy said in a recent speech in Shanghai.

“We are watching China Yahoo closely and will have no hesitation in acting to protect our members’ rights if we should have to,” he said in the speech, according to a transcript.

The group is now making the necessary preparations to file a lawsuit against the company in China, confirmed Adrian Strain [cq], a spokesman for the IFPI in the U.K. He couldn’t say immediately when the suit will be filed or what damages it will seek.

Yahoo China is operated by Alibaba.com, in which Yahoo holds a 40 percent stake. The company hopes to work with the recording industry to build “a licensed download service for China,” Alibaba.com spokesman Porter Erisman said Tuesday. He declined to comment further on the IFPI’s planned lawsuit.

The IFPI helps fight music piracy worldwide on behalf of its 1,450 members, which include major and independent record labels in 70 countries. Along with other groups, including the Recording Industry Association of America, it has sued individual file sharers as well as sites that help users find digital music files on line.

Just this week, the British Phonographic Industry filed a lawsuit against AllofMP3.com, based in Russia, accusing it of selling music to customers without the permission of the copyright owners.

Speaking in May at the International Forum on the Audio Visual Industry in Shanghai, Kennedy called China “the most exciting new market in the world” for the recording industry because of its potential for growth. But he said a “wholesale sustained attack” against music piracy is needed, and called for more help from ISPs (Internet service providers) in particular.

“It is clear that the ISPs are far from adequately supporting us today. I have been very disappointed in recent months to see some well-known brand names among the Internet companies blatantly infringing our members’ rights,” Kennedy said.

(Sumner Lemon in Beijing contributed to this report)

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