R2G, which tracks online piracy and manages licenses for music publishers, has sued two Chinese Internet portals providing pirated music download services to users.
This is the latest case involving intellectual property rights over music — a dispute that has gone on for a long period between Internet firms and music publishers and even between the United States and China.
Beijing-based R2G sued Shanghai-based 9Sky.com and Guangzhou-based 21cn.com for a total of more than 1 million yuan (US$123,304) and it also demanded that they stop providing pirated music download.
"We have filed the suit in the Shanghai and Guangzhou courts but no dates have been given for a hearing," said You Xiayin, an R2G official, in a phone interview at the weekend.
According to R2G, the links for 600 songs in 9Sky Website come from pirated sources while 21cn has more than 100 links traced to pirated sources. The copyright of those songs, performed by pop stars like Jacky Cheung, Leslie Cheung and Jay Chou, belong to Universal Music and BMG, R2G's clients.
"We do not have Universal and BMG's authorization to spread those songs but we are contacting them now," an official at 9Sky said on condition of anonymity.
9Sky, which has EMI's authorization, has negotiated with the two music publishers for almost one year but no agreement has been signed due to price problems, a 9Sky official said.
21cn was not available for comment during the weekend.
In China, Internet firms and netizens paid a 15-to-20 yuan flat rate monthly a year ago for downloading music with no limit. About the same time the music publishers discovered what they were doing and asked them to stop. The music publishers hope to charge for each song download as practiced in western countries.
In the United States, most firms, including Apple, Yahoo! and Microsoft, usually charge users about US$1 for each music download, which Chinese online surfers can't afford.
On Shanghai's street, one can easily buy a pirated music disc, containing 15 to 20 songs, for less than US$1.
The US government has already pushed the Chinese government to strengthen IPR protection on software, music and movies during the visit of US Trade Representative Rob Portman and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez to Beijing on July 12.
R2G, which has signed an agreement with China Copyright Protection Center, has more than 30 music publishers as clients. R2G has tracked more than 200 Chinese Websites and it will use legal measures to protect the copyright of its clients, it said. 9Sky and 21cn are the first Websites that R2G has sued against, the firm said.