Yahoo China sued for alleged copyright breach

Case brought by music companies such as Warner Music accepted by Beijing court; Yahoo China denies liability.

Music industry giants including Warner Music Group are suing Yahoo China for alleged copyright infringement by providing links to unlicensed music, trade organization IFPI said on Wednesday.

Beijing's No. 2 Intermediate Court has accepted the case, which was filed in early January by 11 companies and seeks damages of $710,686 (5.5 million yuan), said Leong May-seey, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's (IFPI) Hong Kong-based regional director for Asia.

"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," IFPI Chairman and CEO John Kennedy said in an e-mailed statement, referring to Yahoo China.

"We believe China can be a very important, profitable market for the music industry in the long term and we want to do everything we can to eradicate piracy, and this is piracy in one of its most blatant forms," the statement added.

In November, Chinese Internet search leader Baidu.com was cleared of helping users to download music illegally in a case brought by some of the world's largest music companies.

"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.

The IFPI, which aims to combat piracy and promote copyright laws, represents the world's music companies and estimates that about 85 percent of all music consumed in China is pirated.

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

Alibaba absorbed Yahoo's China business in 2005 and Yahoo bought a 40 percent stake in Alibaba.

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