Beijing-based search engine Baidu has partnered with 80 labels on an ad-funded music streaming service that previews new releases.

Baidu has been embroiled in legal battles with the majors over its music search engine, which provides "deep links" to songs posted on unauthorized services. The company is dominant in China, well ahead of Google, stating that it has 70% market share in its Q3 results last week.

Hong Kong-based Typhoon Music has signed up with Baidu on the "New Song Debut" channel, along with dozens of other labels including Emperor Entertainment Group and Rock Records.

"We have partnered with around 80 music labels to launch our streaming channel 'New Song Debut,'" said Baidu in a statement issued to Billboard.biz. "

"'New Song Debut' operates under our current MP3 channel. Through this channel, labels can promote their new releases before albums are officially launched, giving companies a valuable marketing opportunity and access to Baidu's enormous user community."

Universal Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment Hong Kong and Warner Music Hong Kong are seeking damages totalling $9.3 million for infringing copyright on 127 tracks, the maximum statutory compensation under Chinese law of 500,000 yuan ($72,963) per track. The legal action, which goes through IFPI's Beijing representative office, was filed in the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court in February.

A Beijing court ruled in Nov. 2006 that Baidu had not infringed copyright because it only provided links, prompting IFPI to appeal the case on behalf of the labels. EMI and Typhoon, which then had a joint venture in the region, pulled out of the legal case and licensed some local repertoire to Baidu for ad-funded streaming.

Asked if it might yet reach agreements with the other majors, Baidu responded by stating that it is "always open to new cooperation opportunities."

"We are excited by this new addition to our platform and look forward to having our users stay tuned to the latest releases and developments in the music industry," added the company in its statement. "We are confident that record labels will realize the value of 'New Song Debut' and welcome collaboration opportunities in this realm."

The Baidu statement continued: "Baidu has a long history of collaboration with major music labels and we have been cooperating with a number of multi-national record labels and the majority of China's domestic record companies to provide advertising-supported online music streaming services in China.

"As the most popular online music platform in the country, Baidu tries to find innovative ways to benefit music labels. We believe that the growth of the digital entertainment market is a very positive development and are proud to be an advocate of this process in China."

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