A Chinese e-publisher plans to file a lawsuit against local search engine Baidu.com over pirated versions of copyright works allegedly viewable through Baidu services, the publisher said Thursday.
The news marks the latest action in China's publishing industry to counter alleged violations of intellectual property rights, a problem foreign companies have long complained about in the country. The move also comes as Google, Baidu's main rival, faces its own legal pressure from Chinese authors over its Google Books service.
Shanda Literature, which runs several online novel sites, plans to sue Baidu next month over five of its works for which the company has evidence of rights infringement, it said in a statement. Shanda alleged that pirated copies of many more of its novels could be viewed through links in Baidu search results and on a Baidu message board service.
Baidu's message forum is a "disaster zone" for piracy where some of Shanda's works are reposted within 30 minutes of their official release, alleged the company, which is a subsidiary of Shanda Interactive Entertainment. Shanda also accused Baidu of failing to remove links from its search results when given evidence that they led to pirated content.
Baidu representatives said Friday they were unable to comment.
China has long been criticized for rampant piracy of music, movies and other products both on and off the Internet. Pirated books are often sold on Chinese streets or in markets alongside counterfeit software, luxury-brand clothes and DVDs. Piracy of written works online has also risen as more Chinese have begun downloading and reading books on their mobile phones.
Copyright advocates have also criticized a Baidu search service for free MP3 downloads, which has faced lawsuits from Chinese and foreign music organizations.
Google is in talks with a Chinese copyright group about possible compensation for authors whose books it has scanned for the Google Books service, which lets users search and preview the content online. The service, the subject of a lawsuit in the U.S. in which a settlement is now awaiting final court approval, also became the target of a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by a Chinese author in recent weeks.
Shanda, whose total yearly losses from piracy could be as high as 1 billion yuan (US$146 million), will seek damages from Baidu in the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars, it said.