China’s largest search engine, Baidu has long been the scourge of record companies, who criticize the site for providing easy access to illegal music downloads. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represents Sony BMG, Universal and Warner, filed suit against Baidu, but in 2006 the Beijing courts sided with the search engine, accepting the argument that it’s not a crime to provide access to illegal downloads from a third-party.
In June, a number of Chinese and international recording industry groups including the IFPI and the Music Copyright Society of China, called Baidu “the largest and most incorrigible purveyor of pirated music in China,” and called for an industry-wide advertising boycott, according to Variety Asia. As the search engine dwarfing all other search engines in China, Baidu’s role in music piracy makes it difficult for other sites to go the legal route. Baidu’s illegal downloads give it a leg-up over Google China, and suffocate local paid-download business models. “Baidu is at the root of the problem of illegal music downloading, Wu Duanping, chief executive of online music seller Zheliang Flyasia Electronics Business Co., told Business Week last year.
A result of continued pressure from IFPI and other music organisations, a couple weeks ago Baidu announced a new partnership with three major Chinese record labels: Emperor Entertainment Group, Ocean Butterflies Best Hits Karaoke, and Shanghai Huayi Group. Baidu will stream licensed versions of these companies’ music through its advertising-supported Baidu Digital Music League, which reportedly just landed a 10 million RMB advertising contract.