Courts ruled against music companies which accused China’s largest internet search engine, Baidu, and smaller firm Sogou, of internet piracy for distributing copyright-protected music on their sites. In 2007, a similar case was brought against Yahoo China, and the record companies won in that instance. Since then, complainants have based their cases, and their hopes, on that ruling only to be disappointed. There were significant differences in the cases however, as Baidu was being taken to task for merely not blocking links to pirated music while Yahoo China was hosting a service that allowed users to download and listen to pirated music on its site.
If record companies have met with only tepid success in the US, where the government, the private business sector, and individuals are arguably more committed to preserving intellectual property rights than those in China, it should come as little surprise that the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has not been able to get much sympathy on these shores. Given the ease with which American internet users can download and distribute illegally copied music files without consequence, of course Chinese internet users are going to take advantage of the same open access. In a country where the Windows operating system costs only US$30, users still download illegally pirated versions because free is always better than cheap. “China could be a fantastic digital music market if internet companies like Yahoo China, and their owners, commit themselves to respecting copyright and protecting creators and producers," said IFPI – but that would require users here (and around the world) to pay for something they can get for free.