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Norway's national broadcaster breaks Beatles download deadlock

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Updated A Norwegian broadcaster is claiming to be responsible for making The Beatles' entire back catalogue available for download for the first time. The downloads are free because they form part of Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) podcasts.

The Beatles is one of the few bands that has held out from licensing its music for digital downloading through online shops such as iTunes. NRK has said that it has now made the music available for free thanks to a deal made with Norwegian music rights authority TONO.

That deal gives NRK the right to publish free podcasts that contain music, as long as that music does not make up more than 70 per cent of the content of the podcast.

NRK is now putting online a series of programmes it made in 2001 called 'Our daily Beatles'. Each of the 212 episodes involves a three minutes story about each track, followed by the full track.

"This is - as far as we know – the first time you can download the Beatles’ music legally. Neither iTunes nor Amazon have The Beatles in their music stores," said a NRK announcement. "The first episodes are already in the podcast."

"In this series from 2001, journalists Finn Tokvam [and] Bård Ose [tell] the story of every single Beatles track ever made, chronologically," it said. "Each episode contains a 3 minute story about each track (sadly for our international visitors – in Norwegian) and the actual Beatles tune."

NRK is the state-owned broadcaster. It employs 3,500 people and consists of three television and three main radio stations.

NRK's deal would not be possible under a UK podcasting licence. The UK's collecting society, the MCPS/PRS Alliance, issues licences for the use of music in podcasts. It involves the payment of 0.15p per track for each downloaded podcast, or the payment of a share of earnings.

The Alliance will not issue a licence for any podcast in which more than 50 per cent of the music used is by one artist, which would rule out NRK's 'Our daily Beatles' programmes. The licence also stipulates that the podcast must contain speech, and that the speech must be spread throughout the programme.

The NRK programmes will only be available for a short time, however. "Podcast containing music may be up for four weeks, while our podcast without music stay up on our server forever," said the NRK announcement. 

Bootnote

Sadly, it seems NRK slightly misread the license agreement and the service has, apparently been pulled. Still, a great idea while it lasted.

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