BEIJING (AFP) - Universal Music Publishing Group, whose artists include 50 Cents, U2 and Prince, teamed up with a Chinese licensing and distribution company to fight rampant online music piracy. The companies signed an agreement whereby the Chinese firm R2G will help Universal protect its labels from pirates by using high-tech software to track music illegally downloaded from the Internet, company officials said.
"This is not only something that the music industry cares about, it's something the whole society should care about," said Jun Wu, chief executive and co-founder of R2G, adding that pirated music suffers from poor quality and potential viruses.
Universal is a subsidiary of the world's largest music company Universal Music Group.
China's has 100 million web users and about 80 percent of them have downloaded music, R2G said in a statement.
However, the company said only a small number of the estimated 7,200 music download websites in China have the appropriate copyright licenses for the music they distribute.
In other countries such as the United States, agencies like the Recording Industry Association of America enforce anti-piracy rules, but in China, few monitoring agencies exist, the company said.
"In China there's limited effective policing against music piracy online," Mathew Daniel, director of business development for R2G, told AFP.
According to the agreement, R2G will be given rights to distribute and monitor Universal's music labels.
It will work with Internet service providers and use its technology to check to see if payment is made to the companies with the licenses when music is downloaded, it said.
"If anyone sells music belonging to Universal Music Publishing and they are not licensed to sell it, R2G will monitor major websites for content from Universal," said Daniel.
"For any unlicensed content found by R2G, Universal Music Publishing can take action."
Universal said it hopes better protection will encourage it to release more music in China.
"R2G presents one of the first real solutions in China that can enable a comprehensive legitimate digital music marketplace," said Tony Yapp, regional director of Universal Music Publishing.
R2G declined to say how many of China's 7,200 music downloading websites its monitoring system covers but said the number will increase eventually.