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Britney, 'NSYNC, Tool Music To Be Legally Available Online

Music by Britney Spears, ‘NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys and Tool will be legally available online this year, thanks to a deal announced Tuesday (July 24) between the artists’ record company and the fledgling subscription service MusicNet.

Zomba, which boasts the Jive imprint, home to Spears, Aaron Carter, Mystikal and other hot acts, is the fourth record company to join MusicNet, which is scheduled to launch in the fall. MusicNet is set to be available through America Online, RealPlayer software and even the planned subscription version of Napster.

“People ask, ‘will there be compelling major-label content available through MusicNet?’ ” the company’s interim CEO, Rob Glaser, said Tuesday at the Plug.In online music conference, as “Oops!… I Did It Again” played in the background. “The answer is yes.”

BMG, EMI and Warner Music Group – whose artists include Christina Aguilera, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beatles and Madonna – formed MusicNet in April.

MusicNet – intended to be an industry-sanctioned, copyright-friendly replacement for Napster – will offer users access to a set number of songs per month as streams or downloads for a monthly fee.

There will be a number of pricing plans available, but MusicNet strategic adviser Richard Wolpert said Tuesday that one possible plan would charge users about $10 a month to stream 50 songs and download 50 others.

MusicNet will be as much a music rental service as a subscription offering – users’ access to downloaded songs will be temporary, executives said. If users want to listen to a song they’ve downloaded after a month goes by, they must renew their license for it – which will count against their song total for the next month.

Glaser gave a brief demonstration of MusicNet at Plug.In, revealing an interface that resembles a certain revolutionary file-sharing service.

“It totally looks like Napster,” said that company’s departing CEO, Hank Barry.

As it stands, MusicNet will not be a one-stop shopping solution for online major label music.

Sony Music Group and Universal Music Group – whose artists include Eminem, Jessica Simpson, Bob Dylan and Weezer – are working on their own service, Pressplay (formerly known as Duet). Pressplay, set for launch in September, will be available through MP3.com, MSN Music (music.msn.com) and other outlets.

Edgar Bronfman Jr., Vivendi Universal executive vice chairman, said Tuesday that no one should expect Pressplay and MusicNet to merge. But eventually, he predicted, both companies will hold licenses for music from the five major record companies.

At least one legal obstacle still stands in the way of both services – neither has reached a deal with music publishers, who control the rights to songs, as opposed to recordings of them.

Both Bronfman and Glaser said that their companies were in intense negotiations with music publishers to set royalty rates for publishers and songwriters.

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