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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 14:19 GMT
AOL joins music piracy battle
Frank Sinatra
Big names on the service include Frank Sinatra
The biggest US internet service provider, AOL, is launching a music download service in an attempt to beat online piracy.

AOL's 27 million subscribers will be offered the chance to pay from $3.95 (2.50) per month for legitimate access to songs by artists from Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra to Justin Timberlake and Kylie Minogue.

They will be given access to the 250,000-song catalogue of download service MusicNet, one of the music industry's answers to the hugely popular but unauthorised sites like Napster, Kazaa and Morpheus.

The New York Times has welcomed the move as the strongest attempt yet to beat unauthorised downloading of music.

The music industry has blamed what it calls internet piracy for contributing to a slump in CD sales, with sales dropping 9% in the US in 2002.

But legal sites from the industry have so far struggled to persuade fans to abandon the alternative sites that offer songs free without paying royalties to the record companies, artists and writers.

Consumers will be able to access their favourite music digitally in an environment that they both have loyalty to and are comfortable with
Alan McGlade
MusicNet
It has been reported that MusicNet has 500,000 subscribers, compared with 100 million users of the free song-swapping services.

The basic AOL $3.95 deal will give users 20 streamed songs and 20 downloads per month.

Fans can sign up for more access for up to $17.95 (11.40) per month, which buys unlimited streams and downloads, and the ability to burn - or copy - 10 songs to blank CDs per month.

Although the MusicNet service has been available through other sites for more than a year, the AOL deal is expected to open it up to a huge new market.

AOL claims to reach the largest audience of online music fans in the world.

MusicNet is a joint venture between record companies EMI, BMG and Zomba and RealNetworks as well as AOL Time Warner.

Having AOL come into the picture helps elevate the knowledge of paid services in the marketplace
Lee Black
Analyst
But its catalogue includes songs by artists from all the major labels.

MusicNet chief executive Alan McGlade said the launch of the service on AOL marked "a significant milestone" for the company.

"The power of MusicNet on AOL is that consumers will be able to access their favourite music digitally in an environment that they both have loyalty to and are comfortable with," he said.

Lee Black, analyst with Jupiter Research, said the free services still thrived.

"But having AOL come into the picture helps elevate the knowledge of paid services in the marketplace," he said.


SEE ALSO:
Slump for UK record industry
12 Feb 03 |  Entertainment
Music labels win net piracy case
22 Jan 03 |  Americas
Piracy 'threatens 600,000 jobs'
20 Jan 03 |  Entertainment
Illegal music sites 'here to stay'
08 Jan 03 |  Entertainment
Country music defies US slump
03 Jan 03 |  Entertainment
Q&A: What is digital downloading?
03 Oct 02 |  Entertainment


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