Google Inc has launched a music search service in China that will give users access to free downloads of licenced songs, while capturing advertising revenue for music providers in a market rife with piracy.
The service poses a challenge to Baidu.com Inc, which dominates China's Internet search market but has, along with other Chinese search providers, faced lawsuits charging that it facilitates copyright violations through downloads of unlicensed music.
Google said on Wednesday its service would initially let Internet users search tens of thousands of Chinese songs by singer or song title on its website and download them from Top100.cn, a Chinese music website co-founded by basketball star Yao Ming.
Advertising revenue from the service will be shared among Top100.cn and its music partners.
"The Internet industry should by no means stand in the opposite camp against the music industry," Google China President Kai-fu Lee said in a statement.
"Google always believes profoundly that mutual interest, rather than monopoly, is the key to sustainable growth."
Downloads of unlicensed music and videos are rampant in China, the world's biggest Internet market by number of users.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry has estimated that more than 99 per cent of all music files distributed in China are pirated.
While Google dominates much of the global web search market, in China Baidu holds a nearly 63 per cent market share while Google has only 26 per cent, according to second-quarter data from iResearch.