YouTube India has launched with a localized home page (youtube.co.in) featuring user-generated videos alongside licensed content from film and TV production companies, but little authorized music content from labels.

"We are very excited to bring a local version of YouTube to India, considering the passion of users here for music and entertainment," said YouTube chief technology officer /co-founder Steve Chen in a statement.

The companies supplying content for today’s launch include leading Bollywood companies Eros Entertainment and Rajshri Films, plus TV broadcasters New Delhi Television (NDTV), Zoom TV and India TV, among others.

London/Mumbai-based Eros has a catalog of more than 1,500 films and last May became the first major Bollywood studio to join forces with YouTube, launching a dedicated partner channel featuring film-song clips, among other content.

However, most local labels-apart from Mumbai-based indie PhatPhish Records and New Delhi-based Indian classical label Music Today-have yet to strike content deals with YouTube India. The service is viewed with some caution by many music rights-owners in India.

In February 2007, Mumbai-based record label/film production company T-Series, a subsidiary of Super Cassettes Industries Ltd (SCIL), sued Hyderabad-based Google India, YouTube India's parent company, for alleged copyright infringement.

According to SCIL, YouTube was carrying videos of songs and complete films from SCIL's catalog. In November 2007 SCIL obtained a court order that prohibited YouTube from disseminating SCIL's copyrighted content. T-Series marketing VP Vinod Bhanushali says the next hearing in the company's case against Google is set for July.

Despite such issues, Indian labels acknowledge YouTube's potential as a marketing tool.

"Net-savvy Indian users have long been using YouTube to keep abreast of music videos, both Indian and foreign," says Mumbai-based Sony BMG Music India associate director Arjun Sankalia. "In that sense, YouTube can be very useful in promoting all kinds of repertoire, as and when their music content strategies for India are more refined."