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Yahoo liable in China copyright case

Court says web service assisted in infringement

Beijing’s high court has upheld the convictions for copyright infringement of two online music services that prosecutors alleged were massive violators. But only one defendant will be held liable.

According to the Intl. Federation for the Phonographic Industry, one of the services — Yahoo China, owned in part by Yahoo Inc. — “runs an operation enabling users to search for, play and download pirate music without ever leaving its website.” A lower court ruled in April against the service, and Beijing’s high court dismissed Yahoo’s appeal Thursday.

The second service, Baidu, was convicted under previous, now outdated Chinese copyright law. The Beijing court upheld the conviction, but as the IFPI explained, “The ruling confirmed that Baidu participated with and assisted third-party sites in transmitting infringing music, but under the old laws, Baidu was not liable for copyright infringement.”

IFPI chairman John Kennedy applauded the court’s decision with regard to Yahoo China. “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,” he said in a statement. “The ruling against Yahoo China is extremely significant in clarifying copyright rules for internet music services in China.

“We are disappointed that the court did not find Baidu liable, but that judgment was about Baidu’s actions in the past under an old law that is no longer in force.”

According to the IFPI, music sales in China total less than 1% of the global recorded music market. “Over 99% of all music downloading in China infringes copyright, and services such as Yahoo China and Baidu account for the bulk of the problem,” the IFPI said.

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