Zhongsou, one of China's top five Internet search engines, has been found guilty of infringing record companies' copyrights by the Heibei provincial government's Copyright Bureau and the city of Cangzhou.

The authorities have ordered the Beijing-based company to stop infringing immediately and pay the maximum penalty of 100,000 yuan ($14,358). They have also confiscated three of Zhongsou's computer servers.

The IFPI says this is the first time that administrative penalties have been levied on a Chinese Internet portal accused of infringing music copyright.

Zhongsou provides "deep-links" to Web sites offering unauthorized streaming and downloadable music files. "We are pleased with the maximum fine imposed by the administrative authorities against Zhongsou's blatant and deliberate infringement of our members' copyright," said Hong Kong-based IFPI regional director Mayseey Leong in a statement.

The IFPI lodged a complaint against Zhongsou with the Hebei Copyright Bureau in September 2007, which led to investigations that resulted in the seizure of Zhongsou's Cangzhou servers, with assistance from local ISP Cangzhou Netcom.

"This should send a signal to other similar infringing music services," says Leong. The IFPI is currently also seeking damages of more than $9 million against popular Chinese web portal Baidu for providing a similar deep-linking service.