Thursday, March 17, 2011

Authors Accuse Baidu of Stealing Work

On March 15, China's "Consumer Rights Day", more than 40 Chinese authors published an open letter accusing the search engine company Baidu for making their work available on its site free of charge without authorization.

Fang Zhouzi is one of the authors. He told news reporters that he could find almost all his books in the Baidu repository called Baidu Wenku. Even older books had been scanned and uploaded. Therefore, he suspected an organized and intentional effort of piracy.

According to AFP:
"Baidu has become a totally corrupt thief company," the authors said in the letter posted Tuesday on the website of government-linked China Written Works Copyright Society.

"It stole our works, our rights, our property and has turned Baidu Wenku into a marketplace of stolen goods," it said.

Baidu Wenku was launched in 2009 and allows users to read, share or download files and books, or their excerpts, for free. Readers can also purchase books from the online library -- at a much lower cost than the cover price.

All documents are uploaded by Internet users and as of November Baidu Wenku had stockpiled more than 10 million files and books, accounting for 70 percent of China's online file sharing market, according to the company's figures.

Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo said the search engine "attaches great importance to intellectual property rights protection" and had deleted "tens of thousands of infringing items" uploaded by web users.

"We promised that authors or copyright holders can report problematic content found on Baidu Library to the complaint centre ... and we will delete infringing content within 48 hours," Kuo said in a statement Wednesday.

In a disclaimer on its website, Baidu said users who uploaded the files must take on all liabilities and be responsible for compensation in any copyright disputes.

However, the writers insisted Baidu should bear responsibility, claiming the company took advantage of the uploads to "enhance its own influence, boost its stock price and increase its profits".

"We do not blame the friends who uploaded (the documents). We only blame the evil platform of Baidu," they said.

Baidu has long been criticised for flouting intellectual property rights and its MP3 search service, which provides links to free but often pirated music downloads, has drawn fire from the recording industry.

The US Trade Representative's office last month named Baidu as one of the world's top marketplaces for pirated and counterfeit goods, saying the company was enabling piracy with "deep linking" searches.

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