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In the Fleet of Time, Baidu Pan Won on Appeal

January 13, 2020

Three years after rights owner Sohu sued Baidu for both direct and indirect copyright infringement of Sohu's hit web series 匆匆那年 (namely, the fleet of time, 2014), Baidu won on appeal at Jiangsu High People’s Court after the 2018 defeat at a lower court. 

The Court held that users’ uploading, storing and downloading activities do not in themselves constitute dissemination of information over the network with the intent of communicating to the public. Although discovered evidence has shown copies of the web series appearing on Pan, the Court found insufficient proof of users’ actual “sharing” or “disseminating” activities using Pan services on the platform.

On a particularly thorny issue of what constitute a valid notice, the Court tossed out Sohu’s MD5 hash matching proposal, holding that the notice failed to provide specific URLs to identify the sources of the infringing content for Baidu to make timely removals. 

Unlike online forums or social media platforms, the Court determined that cloud storage service Pan (similar to Google Drive), among other things, is essentially an extension of the hardware storages built in consumers’ personal electronics such as PC and mobile, which should enjoy the necessary scrutiny in consideration of the users’ product safety and privacy rights. Removing specific copies stored in the Baidu servers from the backend, the Court added, would inevitably harm all end-users’ rights to the content they collected and curated in their personal storage space, regardless of whether the content was acquired through illegal or lawful means in the first place.  

Baidu Pan, the largest cloud service intermediary in mainland China, therefore is held not liable for the copyright infringement allegations within the framework of Regulation on the Protection of the Right to Communicate Works to the Public over Information Networks (2013). In similar cases, WeChat apps and Alibaba Cloud both received welcoming holdings from courts countrywide. 


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