It appears that in a country where over 90 percent of the downloaded music is illegally pirated, if you can’t beat them, join them. Google, Inc. has launched a free and legal music download service that is available exclusively to internet users in China. The plan is for the Web site to sustain on advertising revenue, which will be split among Google, a Chinese music company named Top 100.cn, and the participating music record labels. The move symbolizes a potential shift in strategy against piracy, which is also a significant problem— albeit much less pervasive—in America and other countries. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry estimates that the music industry loses hundreds of millions in dollars as a result of

piracy.

The decision is an attempt by Google to gain market share on its chief competitor, Baidu.com, Inc., which demands nearly 65 percent. Nearly 30 percent of Baidu’s traffic is a result of illegal mp3 downloading. Some analysts consider Google’s site incomplete because Top 100 is yet to sign many significant record labels, which is an important step in convincing Baidu users to jump ship.

The look and feel of the Web site has received positive reviews. Music can be searched for by artist, song, or album. The site also includes artist information and song lyrics. The downloaded music files will be watermarked for advertising and statistical purposes. Downloads are in 192kbps DRM-free mp3 format.