Google has launched a free music download service in China, apparently in a bid to combat widespread piracy issues in the country.

The service is advertising-supported and offers just over a million tracks of both Chinese and Western music from Warner Music, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music and 14 independent labels.

Described by a Warner exec as the "first really serious attempt to start monetising online music in China", it's also an attempt to challenge rival search co Baidu's dominance in the country.

Google says the free service will be limited to use by computers whose IP addresses show they are in mainland China.