Free ring tone downloads featuring the song, "I Don't Want to be a Man in My Next Life", have landed China's leading Internet portals in a legal wrangle. On June 5, music website, www.5fad.com, filed lawsuits at the First Intermediate People Court of Beijing against sina.com, Yahoo! China, Baidu and several other portals for alleged copyright infringement.
The collective claims are the largest in the country to date for Internet music copyright infringement. Each defendant is being sued for at least 5 million yuan (US$623,200).
Wu Duanping, one of the heads at www.5fad.com, said on June 5 that the MP3 search and downloading services provided by sina.com, Yahoo! China, and Baidu are illegal. Further, he claimed that their illegal services have had a severe impact on his company's profits. "We have to shoulder recurring operating costs that run into the millions. We can't determine exactly how much in profits have been lost as a result. The 5 million yuan we are claiming from each defendant is really only compensation for whatever loss we've suffered."
Wu added that Yi Xin, the singer of the song in question, signed a contract with www.5fad.com.
"But sina.com changed the song's name a little bit and made it available for downloading. Otherwise, everything else is the same.
"Not only that, sina.com provides the absolute address of the song. Baidu and Yahoo! China are guilty of similar infringements."
Wu said that they had asked sina.com to stop making the song available and to pay for usage of the song. But they claim that they did not receive "a satisfactory response" from sina.com. Hence, the lawsuit. In addition to the 5 million yuan in compensation, www.5fad.com is demanding that sina.com cease the download service and issue a public apology.
Sina.com admits to having made the song available for download for a short period of time, but has refused to make any payment in damages because they didn't make any profit out of the song. Apparently, none of their users downloaded the ring tone. But they said they are willing to issue an apology "out of goodwill" to www.5fad.com. Sina.com also stressed that its MP3 search service is perfectly legal, and denied any infringement of www.5fad.com's rights and interests.
(China.org.cn by Li Xiaohua June 8, 2006)