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Toshiba to launch web music service

Tosh takes the Napster lesson on board

Toshiba will become one of the first companies to set up an internet music download service that will not use the MP3 compressed file format. The site, www.du-ub.com, is due to launch today, but for now is for Japanese artists only.

Toshiba's board voted on Thursday in favour of online music, but it shunned the popular MP3 format in favour of competing formats combined with copyright control.

When Du-ub.com opens its virtual doors, it will feature six singles by Japanese artists with an additional three added next week.

The songs will be compressed with the AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), Windows Media Audio or ATRAC3 (Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding) compression systems, and will be copy-protected using IBM's EMMS (Electronic Media Management System) or a system from Intertrust Technologies. For some time the record industry has been searching for viable technological solutions to internet copyright infringement.

ATRAC was originally developed by Sony for use in its player/recorders MiniDisc, and ATRAC3 is a development on the original version. Sony is also using the format for its music download service. Several hardware players, including Sony's VAIO Music Clip, offer support for the format.

Toshiba's announcement comes just days after a US court ruled online music swapping service Napster infringes on record company copyrights. The service, which allows users to swap files between their hard disks, has dramatically increased the popularity of online music, but has come under fire from record labels because of copyright infringements by users.

[see our Napster ruling story]

Du-ub.com said it will charge users 350 yen (just over £2) per song for its service, the same price as Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) is charging users to download songs through its Bit Music service.

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