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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
EMI backs digital downloads
Woman looking at music download site
Millions of people download music from the net

A decision by EMI to release more than 140,000 songs for download over the internet has been welcomed by net music firms.

Music fans will be able to download tracks from more than 3,000 EMI artists including Coldplay, Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams through about 20 online retailers across Europe.

The battle between legitimate downloads and the music pirates has been a long and bitter one and the major record labels have been accused of doing little to help the situation.

Faced with sliding music sales, EMI has ditched efforts to stamp out online distribution altogether in favour of more liberal licencing arrangements.

RIP retail?

Some of the tracks could be available on the internet up to two weeks' ahead of the CDs hitting the shops.

As sure as eggs is eggs, similar announcements will be just around the corner for the others
Paul Myers, Wippit

This timing is significant, said Paul Myers, head of net music firm Wippit.

"Having it two weeks' ahead of the shops means they will be beating the pirates to it," he told BBC News Online.

"The question is does this mean that EMI now regard the internet as the most important channel to customers?" he asks.

It may not be greeted as such good news by the retailers though.

"This could have a negative impact on traditional retailers too of course who are being beaten to the punch," said Mr Myers.

Wippit is one of the online music distributors that will make the EMI trackers available on the internet.

It has been in talks with record labels about making more of their catalogue available for sale on the internet for over two years.

Mr Myers believes other big players such as Universal and BMG will follow suit.

"As sure as eggs is eggs, similar announcements will be just around the corner for the others," he said.

EMI acknowledges that its decision is a significant move towards digital music.

"EMI is now providing consumers with the music they want in a way that is faster, safer and more adaptable than is currently available on any of the current services and it's legal," said Tony Wadsworth, Chairman of EMI Recorded Music UK & Ireland.

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