Google expands music downloads in China

In another attempt to hit rival Baidu where it lives, Google is expanding the number of free music downloads it offers in China via a pact with four major U.S. record labels, IDG News reports. The move brings Google more on par with Baidu, but it also underscores the huge disadvantage Google has when trying to build marketshare in China: Google has to play by the rules, while Baidu really doesn't.

Google has been offering music downloads in China for about a year, but its inventory paled in comparison to Baidu's music search, which offers links to illegal pirated music sites. To compete even a little bit, Google--a U.S.-based firm that has to work in the real world of copyright and lawsuits--had to sign deals with participating music labels, like Sony BMG, Warner Music, Universal Music and EMI. Google's expanded service links users to legal downloads via Top100.cn, a partner site supported by advertising revenue split between the labels, Top100 and Google.

But will adding more songs to Google's search service really make a dent? Chinese users don't seem overly concerned with adhering to copyright rules and determining whether or not downloads are legal or not. They just want to search for a song, find it and download it, and as it stands, Baidu works just as well as Google, if not better, in that regard.

The fact is, Google currently holds just 16.6% market share in China vs. Baidu's 76.9%. So while it's right to play by the rules, it's probably also going to end up losing the game--at least in China.

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