Recording Industry Group Wins Latest Round Against Yahoo China
A Beijing appeals court affirmed a lower-court decision finding Yahoo China liable for aiding copyright infringement by linking to sites distributing illegally copied songs, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represents 1,400 recording companies in 75 countries.
As a major source of global piracy for music, movies and other products, China has come under increasing foreign pressure to crack down on rampant copyright violations. The Chinese government has generally looked the other way, but more recently has begun to tighten enforcement of intellectual property laws.
Yahoo China, China's #2 search engine, is operated by Alibaba.com, which is 40%-owned by Yahoo.
The IFPI--which represents major labels such as Warner Music, Universal Music and Sony BMG--accused Yahoo China and Baidu.com (China's top search engine) of linking to outside sites offering hundreds of thousands of unlicensed tracks.
The IPFI contended that virtually all downloading of illegal music in China is done through the two sites.
In April, the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court ruled that Yahoo China facilitated copyright infringement and awarded U.S. $27,000 in damages. Yahoo China appealed, arguing that it shouldn't be held liable for content on third-party sites.
The IFPI said that the Beijing People's Higher Court had denied that appeal. "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," stated John Kennedy, chairman and CEO of IFPI, in a prepared statement.
Recording companies lost a similar copyright suit last year against Baidu.com. But Yahoo China was sued after China changed its laws regarding enforcement of intellectual property rights. Kennedy contended that the judgment in favor of Baidu.com was vacated by the ruling against Yahoo China under the new regulations, and that Yahoo China should be taken back to court. "We are confident a court would hold Baidu liable, as it has Yahoo China," he said.
Alibaba spokesman Porter Erisman could not be reached for comment on Friday about the Yahoo China ruling. In a separate report, he declined to comment because he had not yet seen the decision.