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IMesh's Paid Music Service to Begin

October 25, 2005|Charles Duhigg | Times Staff Writer

IMesh, one of the most popular peer-to-peer file-sharing services, plans to roll out software today that permits users to legally share and buy popular music online from the four major music conglomerates

The service has access to more than 15 million music files on the Gnutella networks and will cost $6.95 a month, plus 99 cents each for most hit songs and major-label releases. New York-based IMesh will pay record labels a portion of the sales or subscription price for each song downloaded or shared.

In addition, millions of songs will be available free because the copyright holders have not asked IMesh to block them.

Peer-to-peer networks have been a source of controversy since 1999, when Napster made it easy for listeners to illegally trade music online. Sales of recorded music began a decline the following year as consumers began swapping music online.

However, in June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that online file-sharing services could be held liable for copyright violations by their users.

And IMesh was sued by the major music labels for alleged copyright infringement in 2003. It settled by paying $4.1 million and agreeing to block users from trading unauthorized copies of songs.

Since then, the company has set out to build a legitimate distribution system around file-sharing networks.

"This is solid evidence that peer-to-peer networks can bring value to the labels and artists," said Robert Summer, chairman of IMesh and a former executive at Sony Music. "We're in the business of finding users who have traded unauthorized songs and convincing them to use IMesh to obey the law."

Some observers are skeptical that consumers will abandon their illegal ways.

"IMesh faces a huge uphill battle," said former Sony Music executive Mark Ghuneim. "Why will people pay for something they are used to getting for free?"

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