China's Baidu has inked a landmark deal with three record labels that will allow its users to access music for free, ending a longstanding dispute over copyright infringement in the country, according to reports.
Bloomberg reported Tuesday that under the agreement, Baidu users will be able to stream or download music files from Sony, Universal Music and Warner Music for free, with the Internet giant footing royalties and copyright fees.
Baidu will distribute the music through rights provided by One-Stop China, a joint venture established in 2009 by the three music labels and local telco, China Unicorn.
One-Stop China's chief representative, Andrew Chan, revealed that as part of the agreement, Baidu would direct all music search traffic to legal links, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Chan added that the commitment by a prominent Chinese company to deliver legitimate music would encourage other small and medium-sized companies to follow suit.
Sony, Universal Music and Warner Music first went to court in 2008 to seek copyright damages totaling US$9 million from Baidu. Filed by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the lawsuit was accepted by the Beijing Intermediate People's Court, reported China Intellectual Property Lawyer.The federation then pointed to Baidu as "the biggest roadblock" to legalizing digital music in China.
According to a statement from Baidu, the new agreement would "end all outstanding litigation" issues between the parties.
Users can access the music files via ting.baidu.com, currently in its beta stage, which currently offers 500, 000 songs from popular Mandarin, Cantonese and global albums, with titles expected to reach 1 million. The service is only available to Baidu users in China.
As of February, the Chinese company controls 70 percent of Internet search traffic in the mainland but its music accounts for only 3.3 percent of this, according to a Technode article.