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MySpace Music hears the antitrust song

Indies call foul at exclusion

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He couldn't comment on this or any other specific instance, as the company is obliged to honour NDAs, but added:

"We have asked for more details about these issues and offered to help AIM [the Association for Independent Music] and [independent licensing body] Merlin resolve these quickly."

One source familiar with the complexities of licensing pointed out that the blame should be placed with the meta data customer, not the intermediary:

"If MySpace doesn't have the territorial rights data, it's because MySpace hasn't asked for it, or has asked for a specific set that doesn't contain territorial rights," he said. "Audible Magic do what the client asks."

In some ways this is a hangover from the traditional way of dealing with rights:

"Most majors are not set up to do territorial rights. By default, they do 'world', and if they find you own it, they go 'Oops...'".

But the broader concern is that MySpace Music is a party to which the independents haven't been invited - an arrangement which strengthens the major labels' dwindling control over music distribution in a digital era.

In the shadow of the Commission

"We've asked the EC to look into the development of the online market," Helen Smith, Impala's secretary general, told us from Brussels.

"There appears to be a fair degree of parallelism in the deals - similar deals with similar timing - across a number of different services, which is normally a bit suspicious. This raises the question of whether there is some co-ordination or collective approach which may have the effect of excluding the rest of the competition."

The Commission has been asked whether to consider whether the market is as diverse as it could be, she added.

Charles Caldas, head of Merlin - rights licensing body for independents - said negotiations with MySpace were ongoing, but expressed his disappointment.

"For all of the PR about how much they loved independent music, and how it was the lifeblood of MySpace, when they went to commercialise it only three major labels were invited to take equity," he told us.

"We want MySpace to treat independent rights according to the value it brings their business," said Caldas.

He said MySpace will find it hard to fulfil its promise of offering 'all the music in the world' without the independents on board.

Indeed, it's hard to imagine the much-hyped launch of MySpace Music gathering such attention without the participation of the MySpace brand, and the eyeballs that the world's biggest social networking site can bring. Would anyone care if the headline was merely, 'Universal Sony and Warners do another download store' - or compare it to MTV?

MySpace's UK PR company declined to comment. ®

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