LONDON Jan 26 (Reuters) - China's most popular search engine Baidu (BIDU.O) has been cleared of piracy in a dispute with the music industry, the IFPI trade body for the music sector said on Tuesday.
The IFPI said it was very disappointed with the ruling after a court in China decided that the search engine had not broken rules by linking to music downloads that infringe copyright.
The case was launched in the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court by Universal Music (VIV.PA), Sony BMG Music Entertainment Hong Kong (6758.T) and Warner Music WMG.N Hong Kong in early 2008.
They accused Baidu of providing "deep links" to hundreds of thousands of infringing tracks on third-party sites.
Another site called Sohu was also cleared, the IFPI said.
"The judgments in the Baidu and Sohu/Sogou cases are extremely disappointing, and we are considering our next steps," the IFPI said in a statement.
"The verdicts do not reflect the reality that both operators have built their music search businesses on the basis of facilitating mass copyright infringement, to the detriment of artists, producers and all those involved in China's legitimate music market."
No one at Baidu or the court was available to comment. (Reporting by Kate Holton, editing by Will Waterman)