Baidu ordered to pay Youku Tudou 550,000 yuan over copyright breach

Mainland's biggest search engine ordered to pay Youku Tudou 550,000 yuan compensation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 5:27am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 6:26am

Beijing courts have found the nation's leading search engine, Baidu, guilty of infringing the copyright of video website Youku Tudou's content and ordered it to pay about 550,000 yuan (HK$699,000) in damages.

Although far from the 10.5 million yuan compensation demanded, the judgments were "a satisfactory start" to a string of lawsuits against Baidu, a lawyer for Youku Tudou said.

The courts ruled in separate trials that Baidu had to pay about 550,000 yuan in compensation for infringing the copyright on 20 television shows held by Youku Tudou.

The latest judgment, which involved two shows and 60,000 yuan in compensation, was delivered yesterday.

The courts asked Baidu to immediately stop hosting the videos on its mobile search engine.

Normal searches should provide a link and then take users to a third-party website, but Baidu directly hosted and played video content and profited from advertisements, said Yao Kefeng, of Beijing DHH Law Firm, which is representing Youku Tudou.

"The amount of compensation was indeed a bit low, but we are satisfied with the court's confirmation that Baidu violated copyrights on video content," he said. "That's a first in history."

Youku Tudou had filed lawsuits against Baidu over the illegal hosting of more than 40 shows, and the judgments handed down so far involved half of them, Yao said.

Baidu spokeswoman Anna Wang said it "regretted deeply the hype Youku Tudou created around the lawsuits". It had reached agreements with many content providers, she added.

The biggest online video providers on the mainland, including Youku Tudou, Sohu, Tencent and LeTV, formed an alliance last month against Baidu, which they said was the "top enabler of video piracy in China" through its various mobile and personal computer apps.

The Motion Picture Association of America, representing six big Hollywood studios, and several other foreign and domestic media entities also joined the alliance. It sought 300 million yuan in damages in more than a hundred legal actions, mainly against Baidu and another company, QVOD, which together, it said, used more than 10,000 videos without authorisation.

You Yunting, a partner at DeBund Law Offices in Shanghai, said the judgment was important for the industry as copyrighted content became more costly, and needed proper protection.

"Simply put, a main issue has been whether the search engine provides merely user-generated content and it acts only as a search engine for others - if it does, it enjoys a protection under the 'safe harbour principle'," he said. "But in China, the argument has been abused. This case will hopefully trigger a rethink."