The plaintiffs said at a media event they are seeking $48.9 million in damages, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. They claim Baidu provides online access to pirated material, in some cases directing Internet users with direct links to websites that traffic in pirated content.
The search engine said it "has always attached high importance to the problem of protecting copyrights in the online video industry."
Among other steps, Baidu said it handles complaints on piracy around the clock and has a filter that screens out illegal content.
The lawsuit, in some ways, reflects a turnaround among providers of digital entertainment in China, the Journal said, as a market that was once rampant with piracy now includes companies willing to come to the defense of the entertainment industry.
"We cannot keep competing because where thieves and robbers are having their way, law-abiding companies cannot survive," Charles Zhang, chairman of Sohu.com, said at the press event.
Tencent Holdings and Dalian Wanda Group Corp. are among the plaintiffs. Representatives from the Motion Picture Association of America, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros., Disney and Paramount, meanwhile, attended the press event but are not party to the litigation, the Journal said.
While not among the plaintiffs, MPA Asia Pacific issued a statement saying, "Urgent action is needed to prevent large scale online infringement of film and television content in China."