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Google to offer free music in China

Top100 and Google hope to get Chinese internet users downloading legal MP3s

Google is expected to sign a deal with Chinese music portal Top100 that will allow users in China to listen to and download licensed music from the likes of EMI and Sony-BMG.

The deal has received the backing of the major labels not least because it is intended as a direct challenge to search site Baidu, which is extremely popular in China, mainly because it provides direct links to pirated music through its search engine.

In the final quarter of 2007, Baidu commanded 60 per cent of the Chinese search engine market, with Google trailing at a fraction under 30 per cent.

99 per cent of all music files pirated

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has claimed that more than 99 per cent of all music files distributed in China are pirated. Last week Universal, Warner and Sony all began legal proceedings against Baidu for copyright violations.

Top100 was originally founded by Chinese basketball star, Yao Ming. It is believed that the deal will allow for a split of advertising revenue between Google and Top100.