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A new agreement between a peer-to-peer network and the major music labels has created the first peer-to-peer file sharing network for licensed digital music.

Wurld Media has concluded agreements with Sony BMG, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group to facilitate the licensing of music exchanged on its peer-to-peer music network. The three music giants have agreed to license their music catalogue to the Peerimpact.com portal, which is Wurld Media's new peer-to-peer file-sharing network.

The service is to be launched in the first quarter of 2005 and will distribute only licensed and public domain content.

"Our objective has been to reach out to the consumer and help build a secure and legal file-sharing community, which also ensures that digital-rights owners get compensated," said Greg Kerber, chairman and CEO of Wurld Media.

Until now consumers could either subscribe to a music download service, such as Apple Computer's iTunes, or could download unlicensed music through peer-to-peer file swapping networks.

"Peer Impact actually revolutionises P2P in two ways: By minimising distribution costs and by allowing legal file sharing within a closed network," Kerber said.

In early October the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) filed 459 new lawsuits against the users of music file-sharing networks across Europe, hoping to stem the shift from licensed to pirated music.

The IFPI represents some of the largest music companies in the world, including EMI, Warner Music and Universal Music. The trade group said that suits had been filed in the UK, France and Austria, countries in which it had not previously attempted to prosecute file-swappers. It has also filed a new round of law suits in Germany, Italy and Denmark, bringing the total number of suits underway in Europe to 650. The music industry has announced lawsuits against 5,700 individuals in the US since this time last year.

The cases are a combination of criminal and civil suits and are aimed at "uploaders," the people who offer music, rather than the downloaders who copy the files off their networks. The campaign singles out users of Kazaa, eDonkey, and Gnutella.

© ENN

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