The IFPI has stepped up its battle against illegal music downloading.

The organisation, which represents music labels around the globe, today announced that it has started a whole host of legal actions in China.

In a statement, it explains: "China has potentially the largest online music-buying public in the world with as many broadband connections as the United States".

"Currently, however, more than 99% of all music files distributed in the country are pirate and China’s total legitimate music market, at US$76 million, accounts for less than one per cent of global recorded music sales."

First up are legal proceedings against the country’s biggest internet company, Baidu, after months of what the IFPI has described as "fruitless negotiations".

Proceedings have been filed with the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court by Universal Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Hong Kong) and Warner Music Hong Kong.

According to the IFPI, the three companies are asking the court to order Baidu to remove all links on its music delivery service to copyright infringing tracks that they own the rights to.

Action is also being taken against Sohu and its associate company Sogou, which operates a similar service to Baidu, it continues.

"Sogou makes profits through advertising that appears on the service and through sponsorship. Sogou also actively induces and encourages copyright infringement by means of recommendations and charts, while Sohu provides deep linking services through its associate company."

The IFPI adds that Sohu is the official sponsor of internet content service (ICS) for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

This second legal action is being brought by four record companies: Universal Music, Gold Label Entertainment, Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Hong Kong) and Warner Music Hong Kong.

The cases were also filed at the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court, and the press statement says that they follow four prior notices that were sent to both companies from July 2007 onwards.

And last up is Yahoo China.

Beijing Higher People's Court ruled in December last year that Yahoo China’s music delivery service was illegal under Chinese law.

However, the IFPI says that Yahoo China hasn't complied with the findings of the court and it is now urging Chinese authorities to intervene to force Yahoo China to act.

In its statement, the IFPI adds that last month it wrote to the officers and directors of Yahoo Inc in the United States, which has a 44% stake in Yahoo China and a representative seat on the company’s board.

The letter urges Yahoo Inc, which is a partner of the recording industry in many territories, "to use its influence to stop Yahoo China’s continuing breach of copyright law".

The IFPi says that it wants to "try to develop a music business in China based on respect rather than blatant violation of copyright laws".

It points to services that it says are based on delivering music to their users via "deep links" to hundreds of thousands of infringing tracks on third party sites, with the aim of driving their own advertising revenue.

John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of IFPI said: "The music industry in China wants partnership with the technology companies - but you cannot build partnership on the basis of systemic theft of copyrighted music and that is why we have been forced to take further actions".

"China’s internet companies have a unique opportunity to demonstrate respect for copyright, take a stand against piracy and engage in responsible partnership with music companies. It’s a matter of great regret that, despite the clear precedent laid down by the Yahoo China judgment, those internet companies are instead choosing blatant violation of copyright, with the inevitable and unwanted litigation that follows in its wake."