Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chinese can now download music for free


BEIJING — Google 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 music for Warner Music Group Corp., EMI Group, 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 China.

“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.

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.

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