26 Oct 2009 09:34

Thunder, Sohu exchange charges of copyright violations

By Hua Jinglei

Shanghai. October 26. INTERFAX-CHINA - Thunder, a peer-to-peer (P2P) software developer, will file two lawsuits against Internet portal Sohu.com for copyright infringement, Thunder's president told Interfax on Oct. 26.

"We have discovered download links leading to unlicensed Thunder software on Sohu's search engine Sogou. We will file two lawsuits against Sohu in Beijing and Shenzhen today," said Zhang Yubo, Thunder's president.

According to Zhang, Thunder has ordered the immediate removal of all Thunder software on Sogou, and is also seeking an unspecified compensation from the Internet portal for copyright infringement.

On Sept. 15, Sohu led the establishment of an anti-piracy union consisting of 110 companies, for the purpose of collectively filing lawsuits for Internet-based copyright violations. The alliance had planned to take Thunder to court for such violations as well.

Zhang denied the anti-piracy union's allegation when contacted on Oct. 26, and accused Sohu of slander. He suggested the Sohu's legal maneuvering was a strategy in line with the launch of its new online video broadcast services.

No one at Sohu was available for comment when Interfax contacted the portal on Oct. 26.

An employee with Joy.cn, also a member of the anti-piracy alliance, told Interfax previously that although companies like Thunder claim that illegal content is uploaded by individual Internet users, they should also be held accountable for their role in copyright infringement under Chinese law.

Jiang Hao, a lawyer with Shanghai Talent Law Firm, told Interfax that China's legal system is lagging behind the rapid pace of development of the Internet. As a result, a number of new legal issues have emerged, but cannot be resolved under the existing legal framework.

According to Jiang, an increasing number of lawsuits related to online video broadcasting have been filed recently, and in most cases, out-of-court settlements are reached.

"If the content is uploaded by Internet users and the Web site carrying the content does not charge users for watching or downloading the content, then evidence collection proves to be extremely difficult for the copyright holder. It will be easier to prosecute copyright violators if the companies in question generate revenues directly from offering the unlicensed content," Jiang said.

Domestic media reported on Oct. 26 that Chinese online video broadcaster, Uuuso.com lost three lawsuits for illegally providing unlicensed films for download on its Web site.

Uuuso.com was forced to remove the content in question and provide compensation amounting to a collective RMB 120,000 ($17,565) to the three copyright holders.