Baidu Inc. reached a deal with three additional major record labels to provide legal, fully licensed copies of songs on the huge Internet search service. The deal ends six years of lawsuits and acrimony between the Chinese company and Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group.

Baidu will pay undisclosed fees and royalties, similar to the agreements between it and EMI along with several smaller labels. Additionally, the participants intend to establish a service called Ting (“Listen”) that will provide playlist, storage and other capabilities for a fee.

The intent of the agreements is to educate Chinese consumers about copyright and to encourage respect for creators and owners of copyrighted material. The Office of the United States Trade Representative names China as one of the three worst countries in the world for businesses that depend on licensed intellectual property, due to high levels of counterfeiting and piracy.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry estimates the Chinese revenue for the entire recording industry at $64 million for 2010, most of which came from mobile music and ringback tones. Ringbacks, which are played instead of the ringing sound when a call is being connected, are based on technology that makes them very difficult to pirate.

The initiative will give Baidu users a rotating selection of at least 500,000 popular songs that they can download for free. These tracks are marked zheng ban (“licensed copy”) to alert users that they are legally available.

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Wall Street Journal’s China Realtime blog:


  1. It was not so much a matter of time as a matter of profit until they would turn this into a regular business cooperation. It is hard for us westerners to fathom how huge a market there is in Asia, especially for personalized ringback tones, which have only >begun to emerge in the U.S. With the three biggest record companies backing them up with their songs and artists, a large bandwidth of mainstream customers can be reached.