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Saturday, September 5, 1998 Published at 02:56 GMT 03:56 UK


Repelling the Net pirates Free music downloads, automated licensing

By the BBC's Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
UK music rights societies have taken their first technological step towards tackling Internet piracy with the launch of an online licensing system.

Chris Nuttall reports on the Net music trial for Radio 5 Live
The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) and the Performing Right Society (PRS) say their website launched on Friday represents a world first in integrated music licensing software for the Net.

In a 90-day pilot programme, they are encouraging composers, musicians and record companies to apply for licences for their material - filling in details such as how much they would want to charge for a download and whether they want to allow burning to a CD.

Free downloads for Liquid Audio users

America's Liquid Audio announced the system was also being incorporated in its software, which allows music producers to encode their work and users to download the music after their credit card has been charged.

Free downloads are being allowed from the MusicTrial site during the experiment and usage will be carefully monitored. The Liquid Player also needs to be downloaded and there are no plans for Real Audio or Microsoft Media Player versions during the trial period.

[ image: Isherwood: Wild West Web]
Isherwood: Wild West Web
"At the moment the Internet is a bit of a Wild West, copyright music is being used on an infringing basis, therefore the rights owners are very cautious indeed about allowing their music to be put up on the Internet for ciculation in this way," says Mark Isherwood, Director of New Technology at the MCPS-PRS Alliance.

"By introducing the licence application process we are hopefully encouraging our members to allow music to be used on the Internet in a controlled environment. That will lead to a benefit to the second group of people, the consumers."

Licences can be applied for and granted on the site within a matter of a few minutes, with an e-mail confirmation being sent. Currently, record and publishing companies can wait weeks for paper-based applications to be approved.

British Music Rights, which launched a campaign in May for international copyright protection on the Net, says the industry loses an estimated £40m a year through illegal copying of CDs and will soon be losing as much again through Internet piracy. It reckons some 26,000 web sites are using music without a licence.

Law needs updating - BMR

British Music Rights welcomed the technological initiative in a statement but added: "Current international legislation still needs to be updated to take account of technological advantages to ensure there is an incentive to use the kind of electronic music licensing that you are seeing today.

"Without adequate protection, creating music, in Britain as elsewhere, will revert to being a pastime for enthusiastic amateurs rather than a serious and respected business." has been created as part of the EC-funded Imprimatur project - a consortium of commercial companies and academic institutions looking at the secure trading of copyright on the Internet.

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