A group of Chinese authors have accused China's top search engine Baidu Inc of copyright infringement by allowing users to post their works online without their permission.
The letter, which was signed by more than 50 Chinese authors and writers was circulated through Sina's popular Twitter-like service Weibo and was reposted on websites.
The authors accused Baidu, which has the lion's share of the search market after Google scaled down its Chinese operations last year, of allowing Internet users to post the authors' works on Baidu Library without their consent.
We don't blame our friends who are uploading these things, we blame Baidu's vicious platform, the letter said. A copy of the letter was posted on Chinese poet Shen Haobo's blog: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_5951573c0100qiti.html
The authors also threatened to give up writing all together unless the copyright infringement ceased.
About a year ago when Baidu launched their Mp3 music service, everyone could just download music for free. This had a very serious consequence. It led directly to the shrinkage of China's music industry, the letter said.
A Baidu spokesman said the company takes copyright infringement complaints seriously and that copyright holders and authors could register complaints online and the infringing material would be taken down within 48 hours.
To date we have deleted tens of thousands of infringing items uploaded by Baidu Library users, said Kaiser Kuo, Baidu's spokesman in a statement.
Other than Chinese books, a search by Reuters turned up many popular English titles such as the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling that can be found on the Baidu Libray.
The books are avaliable for download free of charge in different e-book formats.
Last month, Baidu was spotlighted as a notorious market for piracy by the United States Trade Representative office.
Over the past two years, record companies have taken Baidu to court for copyright infringement over its Mp3 search service that allows users to easily search for and download music for free.
In January last year, a Beijing court cleared Baidu of the copyright suits and said the search engine did not break any laws.
(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Lincoln Feast)