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EMI To License Catalog To Pressplay

Pressplay and EMI today announced that the EMI has agreed to license music from its extensive catalog to the online music company comprised of Sony and Universal. Pressplay currently expects to launch its consumer music subscription service later this fall.

EMI is one of the backers of MusicNet, which also expects to launch a subscription service this fall. MusicNet is the digital music distribution company formed by RealNetworks, AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann, and EMI Group.

Pressplay will offer access to a vast catalog of digital music through an array of affiliates, including Yahoo!, MSN, and MP3.com. The Pressplay service will offer streaming and downloads through a secure delivery system designed to respect and protect artists’ rights.

“This agreement represents another major step forward for Pressplay as we prepare to launch our service,” said Pressplay president and CEO Andy Schuon. “By combining EMI’s extensive library with the vast amount of music from Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group that we have already secured, Pressplay will offer consumers the single most comprehensive online music experience. We will continue working to secure agreements with other labels that will enable us to enlarge our offering.”

Jay Samit, senior vice president of new media for EMI, said, “We are always looking for new ways to expand the reach of our artists’ music as long as our artists’ rights are fully respected, and pressplay offers a great new opportunity for us to do that. There is clearly huge demand for music delivered digitally and we want to support as many innovative and competing online music services as possible.”

Pressplay and MusicNet are seeking to snap up users of Napster, which has remained dormant since U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel shut the service down saying that Napster’s promises of 99.4 percent effectiveness in blocking illegal file-sharing is not good enough. Napster contends that it will also launch a legitimate subscription service this fall.

Meanwhile, the only existing subscription service, EMusic, has quietly been building a small but growing subscriber base, eclipsing the 25,000 user mark last week. Despite the company’s growing subscriber-base, and the promise of a new Napster, some concerns exist that Pressplay and MusicNet may pose a threat to competition and consumer protection.

Neither Musicnet nor Pressplay has responded publicly to reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation the two online music distribution services to determine if there are any antitrust issues associated with the pending duopoly.  

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