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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Virgin France fined over piracy
Madonna on cover of W magazine
Virgin France is whipping up support for calls to end exclusive deals
French music retailer Virgin France has been fined 600,000 euros ($754,266; 414,147) for music piracy.

The firm, owned by Lagardere, was fined for illegally downloading Madonna's Hung Up to resell on its own website.

An industrial court found Virgin France unit Virginmega had ignored an exclusive deal reached by Warner Music France with France Telecom and Orange.

Under the ruling, Virginmega was told to pay 250,000 euros to each telecom firm and 100,000 euros to Warner.

Warner welcomed the decision, saying it had succeeded in protecting its rights and those of its artists.

'Surreal behaviour'

France Telecom's Herve Payan told the International Herald Tribune: "This is an amazing case of simple piracy by a respected company.

"Virgin behaved in a surreal manner by downloading the song, cracking protection measures and then selling it from their own web site."

Under the deal with Warner, the telecom firms signed an exclusive 500,000-euro deal to offer the Madonna single on their website or for download on mobile phones for one week in October.

According to the Paris court's ruling, after the tune was made available the Virgin store downloaded it, repackaged it and made it available on the Virginmega website.

Exclusives row

However, Virgin France said it had broken the exclusive agreement in the interest of consumers.

The judgement "confirmed the need to do everything to help build a balanced market for legal downloads", the firm said.

The group, and fellow French retailer Fnac, have recently attacked record firms for releasing top selling singles to mobile and internet firms under exclusive deals.

Similar deals in the US involving the Starbucks coffee chain have also prompted anger, with retailer HMV claiming such moves limit consumer access to music.

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