I've been following the Baidu copyright case closely.
Earlier, several of my friends involved in the case all told me about the harm Baidu has brought to the whole publishing industry. My response was "Why not sue it?"
They replied that they had sued it before, but never succeeded. Baidu has such good social connections that it can even influence the courts, and while its PR department is so powerful it can cow the media.
I could not help but sigh, "Maybe Li Yanhong's (the Baidu founder) father is Li Gang?" (referring to an infamous case last year)
While the talks were proceeding recently, I thought the China Written Works Copyright Society (CWWCS) should stand up for the writers and publishers, because last time when CWWCS talked with Google, Google withdrew from China during the process.
The funny thing is, everyone ignored that in Baidu Library all the books could be read and downloaded for free, but attacked Google for not asking the authors first before scanning. Now who made such attacks should feel ashamed about it.
There is the difference between Google and Baidu. The former cares about its reputation, so everyone rushes to attack it, and the latter doesn't care for its reputation, so nothing can be done to harm it..
Baidu claims that the spirit of the Internet is "freedom" and "sharing." I cannot agree. In my opinion, the spirit of the Internet is freedom and communication. If "freedom" is the spirit of the Internet, why do companies have to pay to get a place at the top of Baidu's search rankings?
If it is "sharing," then why has Li Yanhong become one of the richest men in China, instead of sharing Baidu's wealth with netizens?
Baidu is a big mall where the commodities are free, so it has becomes the biggest mall, and makes its money from the advertisements on the walls. There is no problem with this business model, but I hope it could remember that it needs to pay for the goods it gets from producers, even if it gives them out for free.
Claims of "sharing" are all very well, but it should refer to a situation where I bring out my stuff from home and you bring out yours and then we can get what we need. But Baidu is stealing other people's stuff and sharing it.
We all know what would happen if Baidu put US books and music up for download for free. It wouldn't do this in the first place, and it certainly wouldn't make excuses about "sharing." It knows who it can bully and who it can't. There's no "Baidu Theatre" to share the latest movies or TV series.
Of course, Baidu has many supporters. Sometimes they think it is troublesome to buy books, sometimes they think it's expensive. So they go to Baidu Library.
It is similar to my watching pirate DVDs and downloading music from Baidu's MP3 service. But I'm clear that it is wrong. Even it is not seriously wrong, I mustn't find excuses for it, or insult those who try to protect their copyrights as some netizens have done.
I can't be clearer about the difficult situation writers are in. Except for a few writers of bestsellers, most Chinese writers earn little. Most writers take two or three years to produce a book, which can only earn them 10,000 yuan ($1,525) or 20,000 yuan at most. They have no social security, but still have to pay income tax.
Many Internet writers write 10,000 characters a day and can only rely on the income from downloading, which is 2 mao ($0.03) per 1,000 characters. It's hard to imagine that, in the 21st century, something is still sold by the mao.
You need only to pay 1 mao for the latest serial to read. One would feel ashamed to give a beggar 1 mao. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, Baidu's founder is worth 60 billion yuan. We need a way for Chinese writers to survive.
The author is a popular Chinese social commentator. This piece is a modified version based on two articles originally published on his blog.
Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn