Baidu to Offer Music Downloads

The Chinese will have legal music download service online. Baidu, the most popular search engine of the country, has a contract with leading international figures in the music industry: Universal, Sony and Warner.

Baidu balance its conflicts with record companies in the West. Tuesday, the search engine announced the signing of an agreement with One-Stop China, a joint venture between Universal Music, Warner Music and Sony BMG, to legally operate catalog service. Some 500,000 songs, of which 10% in Mandarin and Cantonese, will be offered in streaming or download at launch.

All their catalogs are made available to the Chinese population in offering paid downloads. In an era of globalization and increased democratization of the web tool in China, the regulation is imperative to avoid the risk of jeopardizing the entire music industry. Considering the illegal attempts of online music and Baidu redirects to sites of illegal downloading, an agreement was inevitable for the protection of the music industry in the area.

This two-year agreement between Baidu and the big brands ends six years of litigation. Music majors accusing the search engine of providing links to Internet for downloading pirated music. Universal, Warner and Sony BMG had sued in February 2008, claiming at least 63.5 million yuan for violation of their intellectual property rights. A Chinese court had ruled against them in February 2010, finding these links “legal”.

With this agreement, Baidu promises to remove links to illegal music downloading. “This means that all traffic will be directed to legal sites”, welcomed Andrew Chan, spokesman for One-Stop China. According to estimates by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 99% of online music in China is illegal, legal services are virtually absent. Earlier this year, the U.S. Trade Representative had held Baidu “notoriously” responsible for this situation.

According to Baidu, the search for music now accounts for 10% of its traffic, against 30% in 2004. The search engine has a market share of 75.9% in China, according to latest figures released by the Chinese firm of consultants Analysys International. China amounted to 485 million Internet users, a penetration rate of 36.2%, with growth continues but slows down, announced today the Centre for Information on the Internet in China (CNNIC).