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Record label pulls artist-sanctioned MP3 tracks

Capitol demands Billy Idol, Beastie Boys remove CD quality downloads

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US record label Capitol, a division of British-owned industry giant EMI, forced two of its artists to remove free music tracks encoded in the MP3 format from the Web this weekend. However, despite the music industry's ongoing paranoia over the MP3 format, Capitol's move seems to be more about its relationship with the musicians concerned -- Billy 'White Wedding' Idol and the Beastie 'Fight for your right to party' Boys -- than the use of MP3 per se, though that too has played a part. Idol is signed to Chrysalis -- the record label founded back in the late 60s so Jethro Tull could get a decent recording contract -- which was bought by EMI in the late 80s. According to music industry sources, Capitol refused to release Idol's latest album, so artist and label are now in negotiations to terminate his recording contract with Chrysalis. Idol's work has been released in the US under Capitol's Java Records subsidiary, so perhaps Sun Microsystems' lawyers might like to take a look at the deal too... Idol posted two tracks from the unreleased CD on the MP3.com Web site three weeks ago. However, Capitol demanded they were both removed, which is what has now happened, apparently to ensure Idol's exit talks were not jeopardised. The Beasties, meanwhile, have been squabbling with Capitol for some time, ever since the band posted MP3 tracks of concert recordings on their official Web site. Some tracks were initially pulled, then put back. Ultimately, all the MP3 songs were removed, replaced by lower-quality RealAudio versions. That suggests that Capitol has no problem with the availability of the tracks, only with what format they're released in. So maybe MP3.com president Michael Robertson has a point when he says: "They [Capitol] see this as a crack in the dam. If every artist did this, it would legitimise MP3." ®

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