A major gripe by Western countries against China in trade negotiations is the lack of respect displayed by the Chinese for Western intellectual property. Software and music piracy have prospered in China despite litigation attempts by companies and artists who say their rights have been violated.
It is therefore a landmark that China's premier search engine Baidu that recently signed an agreement with Microsoft is now prepared to pay for music downloads via the search engine and to remove links to companies that offer pirated music.
The companies involved are Universal music, Warner music and Sony music. Music downloaded via Baidu will be free within China but not outside it. Baidu expects to recoup the payments via advertising but some analysts believe that they are being optimistic.
The agreement is via One-Stop China, a Chinese company that saw an opportunity in helping the music companies and others get payment for their property. One cannot avoid the suspicion that the Chinese government may have had a hand in the agreement.
China eased out Google to the advantage of Baidu and now Baidu will help China show that it is serious about protecting intellectual property. With 450 million internet users in China this can definitely add up.