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EU to improve access to music online

Apple and Amazon join forces with EU

The European Commission has struck a deal with a number of tech companies including Amazon, Apple and Nokia to improve access to music online.

The online music retailers were joined by royalty rights collecting societies, consumer groups and the record labels EMI and Universal Music Group.

The agreement they reached sets out general principles that will underpin the online distribution of music in the future, leading to "improved online music opportunities for European consumers," the participants said in a joint statement.

"European consumers want and deserve better online music offerings," EU Commissioner for competition Neelie Kroes said, describing the agreement as evidence of "real progress in this direction".

This is the first time players involved in the distribution of music have agreed on "a common roadmap", she said.

Apple is optimistic that over the coming year it will be able to make its iTunes online music store available in countries where it doesn't operate at present, the Commission said.

Meanwhile, EMI expects to sign non-exclusive digital licensing agreements with two of the most obstinate collecting societies in Europe - SACEM of France and Spain's SGAE, the Commission said.

The biggest obstacle to creating a fully functioning online marketplace for music until now has been the reluctance of collecting societies to do away with their traditional approach to the European market, which involved each one maintaining a monopoly over rights collection in its national territory.

The internet's ability to reach across borders makes it harder for online stores to restrict sales to customers in a particular territory.

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See also: The 10 best DRM-free music providers

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