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China: Opinion Battle on Baidu's Copyright Infringement

More than fifty Chinese writers have formed an alliance protesting against copyright infringement by the Baidu Wenku platform, a Chinese version of Google Books which allows users to read, share or download books for free.

In a joint statement issued on March 15, 2011, the group – headed by Jia Pingwa [zh], an executive member of the Chinese Writers Association [zh] – attacked Baidu for stealing their works and for kicking Google, described as a free and tolerant company, out of the Chinese market.

Baidu and Google

In the Chinese writers’ joint statement [zh], Baidu is described as a market for stolen property:

不 告而取谓之偷,百度已经彻底堕落成了一个窃贼公司,它偷走了我们的作品,偷走了我们的权利,偷走了我们的财物,把百度文库变成了一个贼赃市场。

Taking without telling the owner is stealing. Baidu has become a thief company, it steals our works, our rights and our property and Baidu Wenku is a market for stolen property.

The newly formed alliance of Chinese writers have compared [zh] Baidu with Google and find out which of the two companies is the real devil:

再让我们回顾历史:在更早以前,百度打着自由、宽容的旗号,卑鄙地排挤走了比它更自由、更宽容的谷歌。然后大肆推销它的竞价排名,向亿万中国人推销数以亿万计的假药、假酒和各种卑鄙的产品。我们可以这么说:百度是中国最大的黑心广告商。[…]

以下也是事实:在这个卑鄙的市场上,每天都会发生许多卑鄙之事,而百度公司正是其中最卑鄙的一环。它就是传说中的那个邪恶公司,它所宣称的“宽容”,只是 对黑心厂商的宽容;它所宣称的“自由”,只是在各种屏蔽、遮掩之后的头戴枷锁的自由;它所宣称的“免费分享”,其实只不过小偷销赃时的无耻叫卖,慷他人之 慨,自己却无耻地从中大获其利。

Let us review the story: earlier on, Baidu – upholding the flag of freedom and tolerance – squeezed Google, a much freer and tolerant company, out of the Chinese market. [Baidu] then promoted its market rank and helped all the immoral companies to sell fake medicine and alcohol to millions of Chinese people online. We can say that Baidu is the most immoral advertising company in China. […]

Here is the fact: in such an unethical market, evil deeds happen everyday and Baidu has contributed to this. It is a legendarily evil company. Its tolerance only serves immoral companies, its freedom is chained with blocking and filtering; its so-called “free sharing” is the promotional slogan of shameless thieves who just want to gain profit out of stealing.

Business based on infringement

Google_Gone_0012.jpg

Google was forced to leave China in 2010. Image by Flickr user Josh Chin (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Some Chinese netizens have however, taken the opportunity to recall that the Writers Association actually conspired to kick Google out of the Chinese market last year. Virushuo, a technology blogger criticizes some of the writers:

或许你们还记得,不到一年之前,google books索引你们的书,仅仅是索引(用户只能在搜索的时候展现片段内容做为提示),而不是让用户阅读,google就愿意付给你们60美元。但你们嘲讽的拒绝了,你们认为那是作恶。[…]事实上google books确实没有作恶,他们做的事情和书商摘取你们作品的片段放在广告宣传页上一样,让读者搜索感兴趣的内容的时候,知道你的书中有提及,如果要阅读,需要付费。

数字化大潮势不可挡,这本来是全球搜索巨人释放的极大的善意,这大概也是数字阅读解决方案中,技术和商业结合最好的方式。

Perhaps you still remember that last year Google Book has indexed your books in their search engine (users can only have limited preview on their search). Readers could not read the whole document. If you give Google permission [to scan your books], Google will offer US60 to you. But you mocked and rejected the offer, saying that Google is evil. […] In fact Google books is not evil, what they are doing is to let readers get access to the content that they looked for in your books. If they want to read the whole book, they have to pay for it.

You can't resist the trend in digitalization and giant search engine is giving out a kind offer. This is probably a best business model for digital reading.

The blogger also points out that Baidu will do more harm to Chinese writers than they have anticipated, as the copyright infringement is supported by the market:

而今天你们看到了百度文库可以不花钱看你们的文字,于是你们集体愤怒了。我今天要告诉你的是,这还不算什么,对你们更有杀伤力的,是百度和爱国者一起做的叫做 “百看” 的电子书。新闻见此 http://tech.sina.com.cn/digi/mp4/2011-02-23/19475209593.shtml 这 是爱国者出的电子书阅读器,它的特点是可以直接连接到百度文库。今天你们知道了百度文库是什么,那你们终于可以想象当人手一本这样的电子书的时候,会发生 什么。就是人们只要买这么一个设备,就可以想看什么就看什么,而且阅读体验和纸书差不多,可以随身带着,比纸书方便多了。这个计划如果成功,那就是你们这 个行业的灭顶之灾。百看我一不小心就会打成白看,这名字起的真好啊。

Today you are angry because Baidu Wenku can distribute your work freely online. I am telling you today that such kind of harm means nothing when we look at future cooperation between Baidu and Aigo China [the meaning of Aigo is patriot] in their “Baikan” e-book reader business. You can find the news here: http://tech.sina.com.cn/digi/mp4/2011-02-23/19475209593.shtml. The e-book reader device can access Baidu Wenku. Now you know the nature of Baidu Wenku – imagine what will happen if everyone has such a device. It is more convenient than reading on paper. This is the end of your industry and with a slight difference in intonation, Baikan [百看 literally means hundred reading] will easily become Baikan (白看 literally means free of charge reading), what an accurate name!

A business chain based on copyright infringement is more destructive than the act of infringement and Virushuo calls such business “institutionalized infringement”:

盗版从来都不是最可怕的事情,最可怕的事情是成建制的盗版,百看和百度文库都是成建制的盗版。所谓成建制的盗版,意思是说盗版者不需要付出任何东西,甚至 不需要知识和技巧,直接就可以”享受”盗版,这种盗版用起来比正版还舒服(正版无论如何都要有个购买过程,总是多了一步)。这时候,谁会傻瓜的麻烦去付钱 呢?

Infringement alone is not horrible. The most horrible part is “institutionalized infringement”, both Baikan and Baidu Wenku are examples of institutionalized infringement. It does not take any skill or knowledge for the pirates to “enjoy” the pirated copy which is more conveniently than the hardcopy one. Who will choose to pay?

Han Han's open letter

On March 25, Baidu rejected the alliance's requests, including a public apology and compensation for losses, but promised to delete pirated content on Baidu Wenku.

Prominent Chinese writer, Han Han, who defended Google Book's copyright offer and profit sharing plan [zh] back in 2010 has written an open letter to Baidu's founder Robin Li [zh], pressing him to better respond:

您派来几个高傲的中层,始终不承认百度文库有任何的侵权行为。你们不认为那包含了几乎全中国所有最新最旧图书的279万份文档是侵权,而是网民自己上传给 大家共享的。你这里只是一个平台。我觉得其实我们不用讨论平台不平台,侵权不侵权这个问题了,您其实什么都心知肚明。您在美国有那么长时间的生活经历,现 在您的妻子和女儿也都在美国,您一定知道如果百度开了一个叫百度美国的搜索引擎,然后把全美国所有的作家的书和所有音乐人的音乐都放在百度美国上面免费共 享会是什么样的一个结果。您不会这么做,您也不会和美国人去谈什么这只是一个平台,和我没关系,都是网民自己干的,互联网的精神是共享。因为您知道这事儿 只有在现在的中国才能成立。而且您也知道谁能欺负,谁不能欺负,您看,您就没有做一个百度影剧院,让大家共享共享最新的电影电视剧。

The arrogant [Baidu] management staffs responsible for the negotiation [with the alliance] did not admit Baidu Wenhu's copyright infringement behavior and denied that the 2.79 million documents are pirated copies but rather netizens’ “sharing”. You insist that Baidu is a platform. I don't think we have to go through all the platform and infringement debate. You know what it is all about. You have so much experience in the United States and now your wife and daughter are settled there. You must know that the consequence if Baidu opened a search engine that “shared” free books and musics in the US. That's why you won't do that [there] and you won't argue that such a search engine is a “platform” or in the spirit of Internet sharing among netizens. You know that you can only do that in China and you know who you can bully. Look, you do not have a Baidu theatre for sharing the latest movies and television programs.

Han Han tries to build a consensus between Baidu Wenku and Chinese writers:

我们也不是要求你们把百度文库关了,我们只是希望百度文库可以主动对版权进行保护,等未来数字阅读成熟以后,说不定百度文库还能成为中国作家生活保障的来源,而不是现在这样,成为行业公敌众矢之的。因为没有永远的敌人,也没有永远的利益。

We do not ask you to close Baidu Wenku, we just wish Baidu Wenku to protect copyrights. When the culture of e-books have become popular, maybe Baidu Wenku can safeguard Chinese writers’ incomes, and Baidu would not become the enemy of the publishing sector. We don't have eternal enemy nor eternal interest.

您现在是中国排名第一的企业家,作为企业家的表率,您必须对百度文库给出版行业带来的伤害有所表态。倘若百度文库始终不肯退一步,那我可以多走几步,也许在不远的某天,在您北京的办公室里往楼下望去,您可以看见我。 祝   您的女儿为她的父亲感到骄傲

You are now a top entrepreneur in China. As a role model for other entrepreneurs, you have to show your stance regarding the harm Baidu Wenku has brought to the publication industry. If Baidu Wenku refused to move a step backward, I have to move a few steps forward and maybe you can see me outside your office building in the future. Wish that your daughter be proud of her father.

Public opinion battle

On March 28, Robin Li responses to Han Han's open letter by urging the writers to reach a consensus with Baidu and that Baidu could close down the Wenku platform if the infringement problem could not be solved.

In a Sina Weibo news thread [zh] on the issue, the majority of netizens believe that Baidu has been insincere in their negotiation with writers and will not be able to solve the infringement problem.

On the other hand, Li's talk about closing down Baidu Wenku would put the writers in a position contrary to the interest of netizens. In fact in the Baidu Teiba [zh – automatic generated forum through search], many netizens appear to defend Baidu upon reading the writers’ statement. For example:

默默看了眼。。。70%的作家是在网上认识的,还有30%不认识。。。另,这篇文章仔细看看,全篇讽刺骂人的不解释。。。(2011-3-27 14:31)

Read it through… I have got to know 70% of the signed writers online and have never heard of the other 30%… If you read it closely, the statement do not even explain their attack… (2011-3-27 14:31)

百度文库怎么就毁了网络文学的未来,百度文库怎么就罪大恶极的偷走了他们的作品偷走了他们的权利偷走了他们的财物啊···
更何况,就算关闭了百度文库,盗版txt就不存在了么?简直是说笑~ (2011-3-27 14:33)

How come Baidu Wenku could destroy the future of online literature. How it could have stolen their work, rights and property…

Even if you close down Baidu Wenku, infringement will still exist. This is a joke. (2011-3-27 14:33)

Blogger Virushuo in the same post mentioned above [zh] anticipates that the Chinese writers alliance's battle against Baidu would be a tough one, as Baidu controls a large portion of online public opinions. He advises the writers:

前面很多年,google被欺负你们不说话,甚至你们还参与欺负google。现在,你们知道了google的好。虽然我觉得你们活该,但现在还不算太 晚,来战一场吧!这战斗不会一帆风顺,因为对方有钱,你们很有可能会被要求删除相关内容,很有可能百度在你所谓的媒体投放了巨额广告,你的领导要保护他。 但这其实都不算什么,百度虽然势力庞大,但也比不上***强大,你们不也在作品中变着方的挖苦他们吗?这就是所谓”你们擅长的战场”。

Many years ago, when Google was bullied, you said nothing. Some of you even joined in with the bullying. Now you realize that Google is a better option. Although I feel that you deserve this punishment, it is never too late to fight against Baidu. The battle will be difficult as they are rich and are moderators of online content. Because of their advertising interest, online media outlets will protect Baidu, their major client. Although Baidu is strong, it is not stronger than XXX [ note: very likely refers to the CCP – Chinese Community Party], you still mock them in your work. This is your battle field.

In fact another prominent blogger @Isaac has identified some evidence that Baidu is manipulating the search result of Virushou‘s post which he has published via a Google Document; links to Virushou‘s posts have been removed in Baidu's search engine.

2 comments

  • 但也比不上***强大,你们不也在作品中变着方的挖苦他们吗?….XXX [ note: very likely refers to the Chinese Community Party],

    correct,is mean CCP .

  • baidu rules

    welcome to the new world, baby. all media is free. and you cannot stop it. maybe you should not have ripped people off for so many years by selling books and music for such prices. now you will give a “refund”. deal with it.

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