updated 8/6/2008 8:27:05 PM ET 2008-08-07T00:27:05

Google Inc. said Wednesday that it has launched a music search service in China that allows users to access music legally online in a forum backed by some record labels and supported by advertising revenue.

Paid music downloads in China are virtually nonexistent, and Apple Inc.'s iTunes digital music store is not offered there. Downloadable pirated versions of songs are widely available for free online.

Google's service, called Music Onebox, directs users to Top100.cn, a site that names as an investor basketball star Yao Ming, to download or stream music for free. Users outside China are blocked from accessing the music.

Top100.cn is a Beijing-based Web site that already has licensing agreements with about 100 labels. Talks are ongoing with Sony BMG and Warner Music Group Corp. to become partners.

"This legal music service will help users avoid dead links, slow downloads, inaccurate search results, and poor quality or incomplete songs," Google said in a statement.

Google said it is not participating in any of the advertising revenue from the site.

The International Federation of Phonographic Industries says more than 99 percent of all music files distributed in China are pirated. It says that despite China's large potential market, the country's legitimate sales of $76 million a year account for less than 1 percent of global sales.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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