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The younger generation isn't used to paying for music...and probably never will

In an effort to gain market share from its shady competitor, Baidu, the search engine that came to dominate the largest online market in the world by offering illegal music downloads to Internet users and has since been sued over copyright infringement and a slew of other things, Google China has officially launched a free and legal music downloading service.

Kai-Fu Lee, president of Google China, speaks at a ceremony in Beijing to celebrate the launch of Google's free music download service  (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

Kai-Fu Lee, president of Google China, speaks at a ceremony in Beijing to celebrate the launch of Google's free music download service (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

The service, which has been in beta release since August 2008, represents a partnership between Chinese website top100.cn, which is partly owned by Google, and major record labels like Warner Group Corp., EMI Group Ltd., Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music, along with 14 indepedent labels.

How will it work? Users searching for music will be directed to top100.cn for high-quality downloads, and advertising revenue will be roughly split between the record companies and the website.

Most Chinese Internet users go online looking for entertainment

In a market where the majority of its 300 million Internet users use search engines primarily to look for entertainment, this move could easily shake things up and give Google China a competitive edge over Baidu, but will it be enough?  According to Bloomberg.com, Google China currently has a 27.8% market share, while Baidu holds 62.2% of the market.

Although Google has no plans to launch a similar service outside of China, if it succeeds it could serve as a model solution to a problem record companies and ISPs have been struggling to solve for years.

What do you think? Will this move to offer free music help Google gain some ground in China? And will monetizing the music download industry help the struggling music business recoup revenue lost to years of online and offline piracy?

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