Yahoo! China Sued for Illegal Music Links

Is association unlicensed music a key to popularity in China?

After Baidu’s popularity on mp3 search that drew fire from music company executives, I am not sure if Yahoo! is trying to follow the same path to fast track fame. Reuters reports that music industry giants are suing Yahoo! China for alleged copyright infringement by providing links to unlicensed music in January.

The suit seeks damages of 5.5 million yuan ($710,686), according to Leong May-seey, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s (IFPI) Hong Kong-based regional director for Asia.

IFPI Chairman and CEO John Kennedy said in an emailed statement, referring to Yahoo! China:

“We are surprised and frustrated that they should take this role in China given that they are our partners in other parts of the world,”

This case comes a few months after Baidu was cleared of accusations it is helping users download music illegally.

While adhering to the cause of fighting music piracy, Yahoo! appears a little confident that the Baidu case has provided a precedent and will eventually clear the name of Yahoo! as well.

“Yahoo! China respects intellectual property rights and supports the fight against music piracy,”

Yahoo! China spokesman Porter Erisman said in an e-mailed statement.

“The courts have clearly established the precedent that search engine operators are not liable for content posted on third-party Web sites,” he added.

Search engines support more file formats in displaying search results, in addition to the traditional .html extensions. One of these formats is mp3 and search engines display results extracted from third party web sites.

It is estimated that about 85 percent of all music consumed in China is pirated. That could translate to billions of dollars in lost sales considering that China is a behemoth market gaining more affluent consumers by the day.

The music industry is fighting piracy by targeting file-trading and supporting legal alternatives such as Apple Inc.’s iTunes.

I hope that in illegal mp3 search is not synonymous to search engine success in China.