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MP3.com offers pay-for-play music
Will you pay to hear classical music over the Net? MP3.com, recently the target of the recording industry, is looking for customers and partners.

MP3.com, last week ruled liable in a multibillion-dollar copyright infringement lawsuit, on Tuesday launched what it described as the first subscription music channel on the Net.

MyMP3.com's Classical Music Channel will make 3,400 tracks by big-name artists available to subscribers for $9.99 per month.

Artists featured include Luciano Pavarotti, Yehudi Menuhin and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and bigger-name composers including Mozart, Beethoven and Bach.

"Listening to music via subscription is the way of the future for the music business," Chris Montgomery, MP3.com director of channel programming, said in a prepared statement. "We invite labels and content owners alike to join us in developing a mutually equitable system."

It's an interesting turn of events for MP3.com, which lately has been a target -- not a partner -- of the music industry. It's also a risky strategy: Most subscription services on the Net have failed to convince people to pay for content.

Billions of dollars in potential fines

On Friday, a judge ruled the digital music service violated federal law by making a database of 80,000 copyrighted albums available to users of MyMP3.com. Legal experts estimated that MP3.com could be subject to billions of dollars in fines if traditional penalties were applied.

After issuing his order, Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York urged settlement talks between lawyers for MP3.com and the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group representing the five major record labels in the lawsuit.

"We hope to negotiate a way to offer the service (with content from major labels)," MP3.com chairman and CEO Michael Robertson told Reuters, adding that the two sides had been making progress after talking on "almost a daily basis for a long time."

The settlement talks included discussions of damages and whether MP3.com and MyMP3.com could continue to offer the copyrighted material, added an unidentified source from one of the record labels.

"We absolutely do not want to see MP3.com shut down," said the source. "We would be happy to see this thing settled."




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