Global music labels have lost a lawsuit against China's biggest search engine, Baidu.com, which they accused of facilitating copyright infringement with its song download search service.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), an industry group, called the ruling "disappointing" and said it is considering its next steps. In the lawsuit, brought in 2008 at the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, record labels Universal Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment Hong Kong and Warner Music Hong Kong accused Baidu of "deep linking" users to hundreds of thousands of illegal copies of songs hosted on other Web sites.
Baidu is pleased with the court's decision and will continue to comply with local laws and regulations, a company representative said in an e-mail.
The Chinese court also ruled against the labels in a similar lawsuit against Sohu, a Chinese portal and search provider.
"The verdicts do not reflect the reality that these services have built their music search businesses on the basis of facilitating mass copyright infringement, to the detriment of artists, producers and all those involved in China's legitimate music market," an IFPI representative said in an e-mail.
Baidu's music search service is highly popular and Google, Baidu's main rival, has offered a competing service in China. The Google service is supported by ad revenue that the company splits with music labels and local partner Top100.cn.