|A recent announcement by leading Chinese entertainment website 163.com that it
plans to shut down its mp3 music search engine over copyright concerns has fuelled
debate in an industry plagued by intellectual property rights (IPR) issues.
Company officials at 163.com, which made the announcement in mid-August, say
that its mp3 music search engine is not directly connected to the music copyright
"But to a certain extent, it encourages copyright infringement, and we do not want
young users to get used to copying online music."
The website was determined to cancel the service, despite the huge volume of user
traffic it brought.
It says it will not restart the business until the rights and interests of copyright
owners are well protected.
A number of domestic websites offer illegal music downloads, but major domestic
and foreign record companies are prepared to legally put an end to the problem, says
a senior executive in Sony-BMG's digital business department.
"We will also take search engine providers that offer illegal download links to court,"
Beijing-based R2G, which has teamed up with Universal Music to fight online piracy,
sent letters of protest in July to several search engines and portals.
R2G first filed a lawsuit against Baidu.com, the country's top search engine firm, for
offering illegal music links. It later sued major domestic music download sites The9.
com and 21CN.com for offering illegal downloads. R2G acted on behalf of the
Recent statistics from the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC)
indicate that more than 45 per cent of Chinese Internet users download music on a
daily basis, and that about 37 per cent frequently download movies.
The mp3 searches offered by Baidu.com, Zhongsou.com and Sogou.com are popular
because they are easy to access.
China is establishing regulations to protect Internet-based copyrights. Online music
downloading might eventually become a thing of the past.
Campaigners are now increasingly targeting illegal mp3 search engines. These
companies are under enormous pressure, and traffic volume has declined sharply.
A large number of frequent Baidu users, for example, look for downloads. Music
searches contribute up to 22 per cent of daily total traffic volume, sources say.
Most mp3 search results, however, point to illegal links. Removing these questionable
links from search results negatively affects traffic volume.
Some people in the industry, however, do not support the mp3 crackdown.
Li Rui, general manager of Yahoo! China's search business division, says that search
engines are only information platforms. Li blames the source of illegal information,
not the search engines.
Chen Pei, president and chief executive officer of Zhongsou.com, says that service
providers should not be responsible for content provided by other websites in search
Concrete rules also have yet to be introduced in China, he says.
Baidu.com, as an influential website, is willing to promote the healthy development of
the music industry, says Li Yanhong, Baidu's president.
Yet online file sharing is part of a value chain covering various products, services and
companies. The efforts of one firm are unlikely to substantially improve the situation.
Recent progress, however, indicates that things are changing for the better.
Baidu and R2G recently signed an agreement to protect online music copyrights.
Under the agreement, set to take effect in October, Baidu will only offer links to
original music for mobile phone ringtones. All illegal links in its Mp3 search results will
be gradually eliminated over the next six months.
Five government ministries covering areas such as culture, public security,
copyrights, information and commerce, have held joint discussions to address the
Insiders say that simply eliminating illegal links will not fix the problem. Rather, the
sources of illegal content need to be exposed.
(China Daily 09/26/2005 page9)