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YouTube plans 'free-to-net' music vid downloads

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YouTube is in negotiations with record labels over plans to post music videos online. The talks are part of the site's plans to expand beyond its roots as a community web site that allows users to post videos online to become a legitimate distributor of commercial video clips, among other ventures.

The site, which claims 100m views a day, is in talks to obtain rights to post music videos on the site that will be free for surfers to download, possibly supported by ad-based revenue. The business model for the delivery of music videos is undecided but YouTube has set itself the ambitious target of delivering a complete music video catalogue on a "free-to-net" basis.

"What we really want to do is in six to 12 months, maybe 18 months, to have every music video ever created up on YouTube," co-founder Steve Chen told Reuters. "We're trying to bring in as much of this content as we can on to the site."

If successful, the venture would provide stiff competition to pay-to-view or download services such as Apple's iTunes and AOL Music. YouTube claims that 60 per cent of videos watched online are delivered through its site. Many of these are homemade (often comical) video clips but copyrighted excerpts from TV shows and films are also frequently posted online through the site, much to the chagrin of the entertainment industry. YouTube has a instituted a policy of taking down pirated content upon notification. Nonetheless pirated content is easy to find on the site.

YouTube tentatively plans to integrate legitimately-obtained music videos into its community web pages allowing users to posts reviews. Warner Music Group and EMI confirmed to Reuters that they're in discussion with YouTube. YouTube plans to use this feature to differentiate its offering from Yahoo Music, which is supported by an ad revenue share model, and described by YouTube's Chen as a type of MTV for the net.

Michael Nash, senior vice-president of digital and business development at Warner Music, told Reuters that it was "interested in legitimate use scenarios and trying to broaden those. Our focus with YouTube is how to be partners while protecting our artists and ensuring they get paid," he added. ®

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