BEIJING - Several Chinese writers on Sunday rejected an offer by China's most popular search engine, Baidu.com, in their ongoing dispute about alleged copyright infringements.
The writers instead called for a new round of talks on the issue.
The website, which has been under huge pressure recently from the ongoing row, issued an announcement on Saturday afternoon that said it would delete "contents that may have been pirated" within three days. The search engine also apologized to the writers.
Zhang Hongbo, deputy director general of the China Written Works Copyright Society, a non-governmental organization that initiated the copyright protection movement in China, called for the public to clearly understand what the announcement was saying.
"The announcement only apologized to the extent of moral doubt, but we expected them to admit their copyright violations," said Zhang.
He said his organization also wants Baidu to figure out a solution that protects the writers' interests. He warned there will be more attempts to fight the piracy of intellectual property if the website continues to turn a deaf ear to the writers' request.
Shen Haobo, an independent publisher who represents the writers, told China Daily on Sunday that the writers refused to accept Baidu's announcement because it did not admit the site had engaged in piracy.
"The announcement indicated that there's a chance they will reestablish the free online unauthorized offering of stories and books in the future at sometime," said Shen.
Around 50 Chinese writers accused Baidu on March 15 - World Consumer Rights Day - of scanning free unauthorized books and uploading them to its online library. The writers said the site began the action in November 2009.
Baidu Wenku, the online library, allows users to read, share or download books for free. Some books can be purchased at discounted prices.
The unauthorized works were uploaded by Internet users to Wenku without prior approval from the authors, a spokesman for the search engine giant said in a statement.
After receiving requests from writers to remove their copyrighted works, Baidu has sped up its process of checking for unauthorized items. By Sunday, the number of free literature documents in Baidu Wenku had decreased from 2.9 million to 1 million.
A 4.5-hour-long negotiation between Baidu and the writers' representatives, including Shen and Zhang, began on Thursday but broke down in discord. Baidu rejected all the writers' demands, including a request for compensation and for the suspension of the online library, according to Shen.
Baidu officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
China's leading blogger, Han Han, complained early on Saturday that representatives of Baidu were arrogant in negotiations with the writers and refused to admit any act of piracy had taken place.
Li Chengpeng, a critic and writer, told China Daily that the website's announcement did not sound sincere. Li attended a meeting on Saturday evening, together with Shen and Han, and they all considered a return to talks as the best way to find a solution.
Huang Hua, a copyright expert with Beijing-based Wowa Media Company, said a reasonable share of benefits between Baidu and the writers seemed to be the best way to solve the issue.
Last year, search engine Google also came under intense fire from Chinese authors who claimed its digital library carried their books without permission. Google apologized in January and promised to come up with a solution by the end of this month.