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Writers win copyright lawsuit against Baidu

By CAO YIN  (China Daily)

08:17, September 19, 2012

One of the most-read writers in China has won a copyright infringement lawsuit against search engine Baidu.

Han Han and two other writers had sued Baidu over its online library, Wenku, claiming the site offered their works for free without permission.

Although judges at Haidian District People's Court supported their claim, the trio received a total of just 145,000 yuan ($23,000) in damages, far lower than they were asking.

The ruling stated that Baidu was at fault because it had waited for the authors to contact its staff about their work, instead of taking measures to prevent piracy by users.

"The compensation is too low. Many experts and lawyers think the compensation should have been higher," said Liu Yinliang, an associate law professor in intellectual property rights at Peking University.

Liu said legislators are expected to soon increase the financial penalties that courts can levy on companies that infringe on the copyright of Chinese authors.

Han, who sued after three of his books appeared on Wenku, had asked for 760,000 yuan, as well as an apology posted on the company's homepage and the closure of the online library. He was awarded just over 80,000 yuan.

However, evidence of the severity of the infringement was insufficient, the ruling said, adding that the request for compensation was too high and the demand Wenku be closed had no legal basis.

"The verdict was reasonable ... but under the existing law, if a writer's copyright is violated online, the compensation is very small," said Wang Guohua, the attorney representing Han. "We urgently need a revision."

Both Wang and Zhang Yongyi, Baidu's attorney from Beijing Dadi Law Firm, said their clients had so far not lodged any appeal of the decision.

Liu added that Baidu is under no obligation to check whether documents or works uploaded to its Wenku platform infringe on writers' rights, and that it would not be able to check every uploaded work.

"Shutting down the online library, which is what the plaintiffs were asking for, would have a negative effect on those people who upload documents that can legally be shared," Liu said. "So the court's judgment is reasonable," he said.

In March 2011, more than 40 writers, including Han, signed a letter saying the online library provided their works for free download without their permission. Four months later, Han and several others established the Writers' Union to appeal to Baidu, aiming to protect their online copyright.
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