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Tiscali pulls Juke Box music service

Blasts 'shortsighted' music industry

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Tiscali says it has been forced to "turn off" its new Juke Box music service following a run-in with the European music industry.

Last month, the European ISP unveiled details of its new p2p music service backed by US outfit Mercora, which lets people legally search for millions of tracks and share them using streaming technology.

Crucially, the service also won the backing of SCF (Società Consortile Fonografici), the Italian rights collecting society acting on behalf of record producers, artists and performers, which granted Tiscali the licence to run the streaming service.

At its launch last month the service was hailed as another "step forward in legitimising the internet as an immense resource at the service of the music industry".

"SCF is in fact involved in promoting a dialogue between online music consumers and copyright owners and in seizing the many opportunities that are offered by the internet to the music industry," SCF president Gianluigi Chiodaroli said in a statement. "This experimental web casting agreement is valid in each European country that Tiscali will be interested in operating in and represents a new opportunity in preserving music digital contents."

Now though, Tiscali says it's been forced pull the service, claiming that it's "virtually impossible to work with [the European Recording Industry] in the promotion of legal music online".

In an open letter, Mario Mariani, senior VP at Tiscali, accuses the European Record Industry of "short-sightedness...in not making any effort to understand either the basic needs or habits of music fans that choose to consume music via the internet, or the acts directly benefiting from this promotion."

As Mariani explains: "The service has now been judged by the major recording labels in Europe to be 'too interactive' only because it allows users of the internet (the most interactive of mediums) to carry out searches by 'artist' in addition to genre.

"It should be explained to the readers that online music rights are subdivided into two main categories: 'non interactive rights', which can be negotiated with the collecting societies, and 'interactive rights' which must be negotiated with the individual recording labels.

"After signing an experimental one-year webcasting agreement based on the management of non-interactive rights, today, Tiscali has received a request by the recording labels to modify the service by eliminating the search by artist mode or, alternatively, to negotiate the so called interactive rights with the individual recording labels."

As a result of this demand, Tiscali has been forced to pull the Juke Box until the matter is resolved.

Mariani says that the changes imposed are "against the spirit of our initiative", which he says was to promote the legal distribution and sale of music. He's also puzzled that the European record industry has taken these steps now "despite the joint regular testing and fine-tuning phase carried out prior to the launch of the service".

"This is even more serious if one considers the fact that the same service with all the same functions disputed here, is being offered by Mercora in the United States and Canada, where it is deemed perfectly legal. We cannot ignore that the objections presented to Tiscali at this time represent, on the part of the recording industry, a clear attempt to discriminate between American and European music fans and internet users."

He went on: "Faced with this total lack of understanding and despite having put our best efforts into developing and testing the service in full transparency and co-operation with the recording industry, Tiscali today finds itself being forced to turn it off."

Launching a verbal broadside against the music industry, Mariani said: "It is important to underline that this affair not only has an impact on Tiscali Juke Box, but on the entire market for the legal online distribution of music. The industry's conservative attitude makes any collaboration for the promotion and marketing of any type of legal, innovative service very difficult. It is unfortunate that once again the industry has demonstrated the complete rejection of online legal music based on open systems, and is to the full advantage of the proliferation of music piracy services."

The SCF was asked to respond, but a spokeswoman for the rights collecting society said that it had "no comment to make at the moment". ®

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