Google, music labels launch China download service

Mar 30, 2009 By JOE McDONALD , AP Business Writer
Kai-Fu Lee, president of Google China, speaks at a ceremony to launch Google's free music download service for China in Beijing, China, Monday, March 30, 2009. Google Inc. and major music companies launched a free Internet music download service for China on Monday in a bid to help turn a field dominated by pirates into a profitable, legitimate business. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

(AP) -- Google Inc. and major music companies launched a free Internet music download service for China on Monday in a bid to help turn a field dominated by pirates into a profitable, legitimate business.

The advertising-supported service will offer 1.1 million tracks, including the full catalogs of Chinese and Western for Warner Music Group Corp., EMI Group Ltd., Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music and 14 independent labels, the companies said. It will be limited to use by computers whose Internet protocol, or IP, addresses show they are in mainland .

"This is the first really serious attempt to start monetizing online music in China," said Lachie Rutherford, president of Warner Music Asia and regional head of the global recording industry group, the International Federation of Phonographic Industries.

Chinese pirate Web sites offer downloads of unauthorized copies of music despite repeated lawsuits and government crackdowns. Legitimate producers have no estimate of lost potential sales, but some Chinese performers have announced they were no longer recording because piracy made it unprofitable.

The venture gives Google a new way to compete in a market where its research shows 84 percent of people say finding music is their main reason to use search engines, said Kai-Fu Lee, Google's president for Greater China.

"With today's offering, we complete the puzzle and offer a complete set of services that are fully integrated," he said.

China has the world's biggest online population, with some 300 million Internet users, according to the government. Online commerce is still modest in China and most Web surfers are looking for music, games and other entertainment.

Lee said the company was optimistic that use would grow rapidly but he declined to give any revenue forecasts.

EMI launched a separate venture with China's dominant search engine, Baidu Inc., in January 2007 to compete with pirates by allowing free streaming pop music from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It sells downloads for a small fee.

Google's service is to be run by Top100.cn, a 3 1/2-year-old Chinese Web site partly owned by Google. The site will sell advertising on its download page and split revenues with music companies, said its CEO, Gary Chen.

Providers will abide by Chinese censorship and withhold songs that are banned by the communist government, Rutherford said.

"When you're in the music business in China you know you have to follow the regulations," he said. "We wouldn't give files to people in China (in situations) where a song has been banned."

Google, headquartered in Mountain View, California, has struggled to expand in China, where it says it has about 30 percent of the search market. Baidu's market share is just over 60 percent, according to research firm Analysys International.

Google's Lee declined to comment on Beijing's blocking of its YouTube video-sharing service last week. China occasionally bars its Internet users from seeing YouTube to prevent access to videos considered critical of communist rule or unflattering to the government.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Second apparent leak of hacked celebrity nude pictures: US media

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Google chided for China censorship deal

Jan 25, 2006

Google's decision to allow censorship of its search-engine results in China was chided by human-rights groups Wednesday and defended by company officials.

Baidu decision a win for IPR

Jul 21, 2005

Intellectual-property rights scored a small victory Wednesday when state media reported Baidu.com, a Chinese search engine, agreed to remove links to sites selling pirated music.

Amnesty: Web Companies Violating Rights

Jul 20, 2006

(AP) -- Amnesty International accused Yahoo, Microsoft and Google on Thursday of violating human rights principles by cooperating with China's efforts to censor the Web and called on them to lobby for the release of jailed ...

Analysis: Baidu's legal woes in China

Sep 22, 2005

The legal problems of Wall Street darling Baidu.com, dubbed the "Google of China," worsened Tuesday after state-run media reported an unfavorable court ruling.

Rights experts question Google censorship

Jan 25, 2006

Google's decision to do business in China by adhering to the government's strict censorship rules has come under attack by many bloggers, academics and activists alike. What's more, some question whether the ...

Recommended for you

Facebook dressed down over 'real names' policy

Sep 17, 2014

Facebook says it temporarily restored hundreds of deleted profiles of self-described drag queens and others, but declined to change a policy requiring account holders to use their real names rather than drag names such as ...

User comments : 0