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Sina Sets Sites on Slamming Sohu

China's two major Chinese Internet portals, Sina.com and Sohu.com, are duking it out in virtually all areas of their operations.

Sina has filed a lawsuit accusing its rival of plagiarism and calling for better copyright protection among all Internet businesses in China, Sina officials said Thursday.

The Second Intermediate People's Court of Beijing has accepted the case, Sina lawyer Tong Mingyou said.

Sina is demanding that Sohu pay 300,000 yuan (US$36,000) in compensation and apologize for its behaviour on Sohu's website.

Sohu defended itself in a written statement, calling the accusations "groundless" and "ridiculous." It said its short messages came from its own employees, users and partners and was not plagiarized.

Sohu also said it had its own evidence of Sina's unauthorized short messages and might take actions against Sina.

Sohu further said its rival filed suit to deflect attention from internal problems including slow revenue growth and loss of business directions to Sohu.

Sohu did not, however, address the alleged plagiarism of Sina's financial and sports news.

The two companies, together with Chinese portal Netease.com, are listed on the NASDAQ and referred to as the "Big Three" in China's Internet industry, with about 30 million registered users and heavy reliance on online advertising and paid services like short message service (SMS) for mobile phone users.

Sina, believed to be the biggest Internet portal and the best news website in China, also accused its rival of unauthorized use of more than 100 short text, image and music messages written edited or designed by Sina's staff.

The company said that more than 30 of its picture messages were copied by Sohu without permission. Sina charges users 0.5 yuan to 1 yuan (US$6 cents to US$12 cents) a piece.

"We were compelled to turn to the court for help protecting our copyrights after many warnings and negotiations," said Wang Yan, Sina's president.

Sohu has gained considerable benefits by infringing on Sina's copyrights, and this has hurt Sina's interests and is unfair competition, said Sina's lawyer, Tong.

Analysts expressed concern about the intense fighting between the two companies.

"It seems that Sina has gathered convincing evidence about the accusations and will not stop until it gets what it wants," said one analyst who refused to be identified. "The quarrels are a farce and will give the world a very bad impression of the Chinese portals."

(China Daily January 25, 2002)

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