China's Ministry of Culture will punish Baidu Inc for providing illegal music downloads, Xinhua, China's official news agency reported on Monday.
The government will punish 14 websites that have provided illegal music downloads, including Baidu, China's top search engine. Xinhua reported that an official said the websites continued to provide that music despite repeated warnings not to. Details regarding the punishment were not released.
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Baidu could not be immediately reached for comment.
Over the past few months, Baidu has been in a tussle with a group of authors over its Baidu Library product that the authors said reproduced their works without permission.
Baidu subsequently apologised to the authors and took down the infringing material. The firm also said it would launch a licenced music search service in May. [ID:nL3E7F61B5]
Earlier in the month, Baidu reached an agreement with Music copyright Society of China (MCSC) to pay fees to MCSC for every song downloaded using Baidu Ting. The licenced music service would be supported by advertising.
Baidu's Mp3 music search has been criticised by the United States as being a "notorious market" for piracy over its ability to provide "deep linking" to steer users to allegedly-infringing material hosted on third-party websites. (Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)