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Music publishers strike deal with MP3.com

Online music website escapes the chop in what could be a landmark deal

US music publishers have reached a tentative licensing agreement with online music company MP3.com. The agreement allows MP3.com to use more than 1m songs on its web-based service, letting consumers listen to music from CDs they already own or that they buy from MP3.com's retail partners.

Under the terms of yesterday's agreement, MP3.com will pay music publishers $30m over three years for the right to run My.MP3.com, a section of the MP3.com site that lets people store music on the site access it via any computer. MP3.com will pay a quarter of a cent each time a consumer accesses a song, as well as a one-off fee each time a user stores a song on My.MP3.com.

"[This agreement] is a giant step for all consumers who want simply to be able to listen to music they already own. Today the … public won," said Robin Richards, president and chief negotiator of MP3.com said.

The music publishers are also pleased with the proposed settlement.

"This is a win for the music publishers, a win for us and a win for the songwriters and the public," said Edward Murphy, president of the US National Music Publishers' Association. "This might seem like a small amount of money but [the publishers and songwriters] need it for their livelihood."

Music sites such as MP3.com have been allowing consumers to listen to and share music online without purchasing it. But music publishers have reacted angrily saying it infringes copyright. Musicians are split on the impact of MP3-encoded music. The music publishers threatened to put MP3.com and sites like it out of business using the copyright laws.

In April the US District Court ruled that MP3.com infringed on copyright by creating a database of about 80,000 songs without the permission of the music publishers or recording companies. Since that time, MP3.com has settled with four of the five major record labels that sued the online music company for copyright infringement.

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