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Saturday, 15 July, 2000, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
EMI tests web music sales
Spice Girls BBC
Spice Girls: Soon to be available for download
EMI is to start selling albums and singles via the internet on Tuesday in the first large-scale test of online music sales.

The world's third largest music company will offer more than 100 albums and 40 singles online from artists like Pink Floyd, the Spice Girls and Frank Sinatra.

"EMI is the first major record label to release this volume of songs for digital download into the retail channel," said Richard Cottrell, president of EMI Music Distribution.

The company's venture into cyberspace comes as legal battles rage over copyright and digital music distribution between the recording industry and online music providers like Napster and MP3.com.

Fighting piracy

Customers will be able to order, pay for and access digital versions of albums through internet music retailers like CDNow or Amazon.com, though the prices are likely to be similar to those for compact discs.


We're very much about making this simple for users

Richard Cottrell
"The consumers will be able to find the music through all the normal retail websites. We're very much about making this simple for users," said Mr Cottrell.

The tracks will be in a secure format to prevent widespread piracy. Each music file will have use restrictions written into the software code, limiting the number of times a file can be copied for personal use.

Initially they will be in secure Windows Media format, to coincide with the release of Microsoft's latest version of its Windows Media Player.

In the future, they will also be available in software company Liquid Audio's secure format.

Liquid Audio is one of three companies providing the infrastructure for retailers to sell the music securely. The other two companies are Supertracks and Amplified.

Digital battle

Digital rights protection remains an issue within the music industry, especially with wildly popular file-sharing software such as Napster, which makes distributing digital music and other files very easy.

Beatles BBC
EMI wary about releasing Beatles material
Popular MP3 compression technology turns music on compact discs into small computer files, making it much easier for people to share music over the internet.

The recording industry dislikes MP3 as it allows the distribution of music without any copyright protection or collection of royalties.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is currently suing Napster for copyright infringement.

The service, which has about 20 million registered users, allows fans to swap songs for free by trading MP3 files.

EMI first announced its plans to sell music online in May. It plans to add more artists in the future, but it is wary about distributing music from some of its most legendary acts, like the Beatles.

In April, Sony Music and BMG announced plans to begin limited digital sales of singles over the internet using secure formats which cannot be easily copied.

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See also:

10 May 00 | Business
EMI enters digital music arena
24 Jan 00 | Business
EMI: A brief history
29 Feb 00 | Brit Awards
Music online: The story so far
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