Member companies of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) have filed a copyright infringement suit against Yahoo's China operations, the two sides confirmed Wednesday.
A total of 11 IFPI member companies filed suit in the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court, seeking 5.5 million Chinese yuan (US$710,000) in damages, over Yahoo China allegedly providing 229 illegal song downloads.
"Yahoo China is engaged in infringing our members' rights in a major way. We are surprised and frustrated that they should take this role in China given that they are our partners in other parts of the world. We approached them, we had some negotiations with them, and we were very close to reaching an agreement but unfortunately they decided to walk away from those talks," said John Kennedy, IFPI chairman and CEO, in an e-mail response to a request for comment.
"We believe China can be a very important, profitable market for the music industry in the long term and we want to do everything we can to eradicate piracy, and this is piracy in one of its most blatant forms," Kennedy said.
Alibaba.com, which has operated Yahoo China since 2005, denied the claims. "Yahoo! China respects intellectual property rights and supports the fight against music piracy. The courts have clearly established the principle that search engine operators are not liable for content posted on third party websites. We will continue discussions with those record companies who seek constructive partnerships with us instead of resorting to litigation tactics," said Porter Erisman, a spokesman for Alibaba in Beijing, by e-mail.
The IFPI represents the interests of its 1,400 music industry member companies in more than 70 countries worldwide, including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group.