BEIJING – In the latest round of legal proceedings between Ctrip, a leading online travel agency, and Qunar, China’s leading travel search engine, the People’s Court of Haidian District, Beijing failed to come to a decision regarding the case filed by Ctrip. Ctrip believes that Qunar willingly broke copyright regulations pertaining to Ctrip, and the company also denied any possibility of an out-of-court settlement.
Ctrip is attempting to claim that Qunar’s search, partial display, and linking back to Ctrip’s web site of user-generated comments constitute a rights violation. Thus, having failed in their requests to have Qunar desist from this practice, Ctrip decided to take the issue to the courts, filing in August of this year.
Ctrip’s attorney states that user-generated comments, as originally posted on Ctrip’s web site, belong to Ctrip, and as such are copyrighted. It is, therefore, their belief that Qunar has the legal obligation to cease and desist from the practice of searching, partially displaying, and linking back to Ctrip’s web site, while also covering the costs of litigation that amount to RMB1,000. “According to internet by-laws here in China, the accused would have been exempt from liability had they deleted the comments at the first time of asking. But, unfortunately, the other party failed to respond accordingly,” said Ctrip’s attorney.
It is Qunar’s belief, however, that no copyright laws have been broken. Qunar’s attorney states that there are three clear reasons why Qunar has not violated any copyright laws. First, what Qunar provided is only a crawl of user-generated comments rather than a full reprinting, which is consistent with practices followed by search engines in China and other countries. Also, Qunar sources user-generated comments from various travel web sites, including eLong.com. Additionally, there is no clear statement by Ctrip nor do its user terms and conditions declare in any way that user-generated comments are copyrighted. And finally, such user-generated comments by their very nature cannot be constituted as copyrightable works, hence, it is not appropriate to talk of copyright violations with regards to such items.
Previously, Ctrip had also brought a lawsuit against Qunar to the Administration for Industry and Commerce at the beginning of 2007, demanding that Qunar remove its advanced price comparison tool from its web site. In the same year, Shanghai Lanbao Travel Service Co., Ltd. was also accused of a rights violation and was asked by Ctrip to delete relative information. At the time of the Lanbao case, there was a comment released in the Chinese domestic media pointing out that Ctrip, as an industry pioneer, is compelled to “protect itself from enemies everywhere” due to fierce competition in the online travel industry.