Baidu Inc, China's largest search engine, said on Thursday it would introduce anti-piracy technology for its document and books product in May, countering criticism that the firm has been lax in dealing with copyright-infringing material.
Baidu, which has about 70 percent of China's search market by revenue, was criticized last week by authors who demanded that the firm remove numerous copyright-infringing books and documents found on its Baidu Library product.
Baidu said the technology took more than four months of research and would enter a testing phase in April before a full release on May 1st.
The technology will not only enable Baidu Library to systematically eliminate copyright-infringing content already uploaded on its platform, but will also enable automatic rejection of future problematic uploads, Baidu's spokesman Kaiser Kuo said in a statement to Reuters.
The move bodes well for Baidu as the company has faced lawsuits and intense criticism over its handling of copyrighted material over the past few years.
Last month, the United States Trade Representative office spotlighted Baidu as a notorious market for piracy because of the deep linking ability of its MP3 music search, which enables users to search for and download copyright-infringing music easily.
In January last year, a Beijing court cleared Baidu of copyright suits and said the search engine did not break any laws.
Chinese authorities are also keeping a keen eye on Baidu. Local media reported recently that the deputy chief of the Department of Copyright Administration requested Baidu submit a plan to eliminate copyright infringing material on its websites. Baidu submitted the plan this month, Kuo said.
Baidu is also in talks with record labels over its MP3 search service and the approach taken to combat piracy on that front will be different from that taken for Baidu Library.
With music, we're not taking an identical approach, but we continue to press forward in our talks with the labels and hope to be able to achieve a breakthrough that will be good for everyone in the music industry value chain, Kuo said.
(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)