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JetGroove culls songs as music biz says 'cease, desist'

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Controversial music download site JetGroove has removed more than 50,000 songs from its database after receiving cease and desist requests from the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) and its UK wing, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

The move comes after it emerged that the website had contacted the UK's Association of Independent Music (AIM) "this summer" with a view to opening negotiations to secure a licensing deal.

According to AIM sources, no agreement had yet been reached by the time JetGroove went live with a 'beta' site earlier this month. That launch prompted numerous complaints to the BPI and AIM from British independent labels who discovered their material listed on the site without authorisation.

Those complaints prompted a BPI and IFPI investigation of the site, which in turn resulted in their demand that JetGroove pull the song listings.

While JetGroove was not offering unauthorised songs for sale - a move that would clearly have got it into very hot water with international anti-piracy bodies like IFPI - it was nevertheless offering streamed previews of those songs.

JetGroove's scheme was to list the songs, measure demand for them, then approach their copyright owners with a view to licensing the tracks for sale. The strategy allowed JetGroove to list a huge selection of songs - over 500,000, it claimed - but only spend money on licences when demand reached a sufficiently high level. Attempts to purchase an unlicensed song presented buyers with a 'this track is not yet available' message.

However, by jumping the gun on its negotiations with AIM, JetGroove landed itself in trouble. Its song previews, depending on their duration, require licensing just as much as selling the tracks do, and it's this alleged copyright violation that the BPI and IFPI have used to stamp on the site.

Whether JetGroove simply failed to appreciate that previewing a song can be just as much a copyright issue as selling it, or something more sinister has been going on, isn't known. AIM and the BPI both said they are keeping their minds open on that point.

Either way, JetGroove has proved more than a little economical with the actualité - the BPI said today that 50,000 songs had been removed from JetGroove's listing. Our check revealed only 750 titles listed this morning. Together, both figures fall far short of the 500,000 claimed in a press release dated 5 October.

According to the BPI, JetGroove is based in Moscow with servers maintained in the US. Some material is hosted on servers in the UK and continental Europe, The Register understands.

The organisation warned that while it is satisfied that the songs currently available on JetGroove do not infringe its members' copyrights, it would keep the site under surveillance.

Meanwhile, an AIM spokesman confirmed that the organisation remains in "correspondence" with JetGroove. "They appear keen to seek a licence from our members," he said.

However, it's clear the company's 'beta' launch and what it itself admits is the "confusion" surrounding its actions, have left UK indie labels sceptical of its claims. We will see how negotiations progress. ®

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