BEIJING: Baidu Inc, which operates China’s leading search engine, has removed 2.8 million items from an online library after authors complained it was distributing their work without permission.
The company has apologised to Chinese authors and said it would screen material on Baidu Library and remove unauthorised copies.
Baidu removed 2.8 million items from the document sharing service’s “literary works” section, said a company spokesman, Kaiser Kuo. He said that left about 1,000 works it believes are properly licensed.
Baidu hopes to discuss with authors possible arrangements to distribute their work and share the revenues, Kuo said.
“We really hope our actions will go far to assuage them and will form a foundation for us to have fruitful talks about ways to co-operate,” he said.
Baidu has faced complaints by music companies, publishers and others that it facilitates the distribution of unlicensed material by linking to pirate websites that carry unauthorised copies.
This month, the US Trade Representative’s office cited Baidu in a list of 33 websites or public markets in China, Russia, India and other countries that it deemed “notorious markets” linked to sales of pirated or fake goods.
The latest dispute came after Baidu launched a series of new services last year that are meant to create a distinctive identity for a company long seen as an imitator of search giant Google Inc.
In a petition posted on the Internet on March 15, a group of Chinese authors complained that Baidu had “deteriorated into a burglar company that stole our property and stole our rights.”
The dispute prompted Baidu CEO Robin Li to announce at an Internet conference in the southern city of Shenzhen recently that he would shut down the service if it could not be resolved, according to Kuo.
“We appealed to Baidu to curb and correct their infringing activities. If they did so, we welcome it,” said Yang Chengzhi, Communist Party secretary of the government-sanctioned China Writers’ Association.
Baidu has more than 75% of China’s search market, with Google in second place at just under 20%. Google’s share has eroded since it closed its China-based search engine last March to avoid having to comply with government requirements to censor results.
Baidu says it will launch a system in May to screen material on Baidu Library and block the uploading of copyrighted works. — AP
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