Google offers free music search in China

Ad-supported service lets users in China search tens of thousands of Chinese songs by singer or song title, then download them for free from partner Top100.cn.

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Google announced on Tuesday that it has launched a free music search service in China that will give users access to free downloads of licensed songs.

Google said its service would let users search tens of thousands of Chinese songs by singer or song title on its Web site, then download them from partner Top100.cn, a Chinese music site that has financial backing from NBA star Yao Ming.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google said the service will be supported by advertising revenue, to be split with music companies and Top100.cn.

The service is being touted as a way to legally monetize music in China, which is well known as a hotbed for rampant piracy. Analysts have estimated that more than 90 percent of Internet users in China download unlicensed music every day via search engines.

Users outside of China won't have access to the service, Google said.

The service could pose a challenge to Baidu.com, which dominates China's Internet search business with 64 percent of the market, compared with Google's 26 percent.