Tue, Nov 11, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Legal online music web site unveiled

AFFORDABLE MUSIC iBIZ Entertainment Corp will provide access to a library of over 500,000 songs which can be downloaded legally for NT$10 to NT$30

BY JESSIE HO  /  STAFF REPORTER

The iBIZ Entertainment Techno-logy Corp (艾比茲娛樂科技), a Taipei-based online music distributor, announced it will begin an internet music download service next month, making it the nation's first legal online music service provider, boasting over 500,000 titles.

After reaching agreements with 14 record labels, iBIZ said it is allowed to provide either music or video titles for consumers at www.imusic.com at NT$10 to NT$30 per song, or at a 30 percent to 40 percent discount from the market price of an album, company executives said yesterday.

"We've prepared for this project for three years and negotiated with record companies for over a year ? I believe the legitimate download service will revive the music industry, which is wracked by music piracy," iBIZ Chairman Steven Yang (楊國雄) said.

Chiu Fu-sheng (邱復生), chairman and CEO of Era Communications Co (年代網際事業), which owns iBIZ, said establishment of the new online platform will enable consumers to enjoy a variety of quality music at fair prices, without worrying about copyright infringement.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Taiwan's legitimate market in recorded music has dropped dramatically in value from US$363 million in 1997 to US$286 million in 1999 and US$162 million last year owing to music piracy, including bootlegged CDs and peer-to-peer (P2P) music swapping.

"I hope consumers abandon illegal music sharing to help revive the music industry," IFPI secretary-general Robin Lee (李瑞斌) told the press at yesterday's event.

To prevent the music files being swapped online via peer-to-peer (P2P) shareware, iBIZ will encrypt every song by applying a digital-rights management system, which restricts the songs to be being played by the downloaded computer or a peripheral device, Yang said. The encryption system also prevents files from being burned onto a CD, he added.

When asked if the company is able to persuade consumers to quit free music, Yang said on top of fair quality and price, he believes the current unauthorized file-sharing will be banned from operating after related legislation is made.

The nation's largest music-sharing Web site kuro.com.tw (飛行網) yesterday offered its greetings to the newly-established iBIZ.

"We are glad to see record companies finally agree to release the rights of their products to online music providers, which I think is a good sign for the digital music industry," said Philip Wang (王立文), spokesman of kuro, which has around 500,000 subscribers.

Kuro previously proposed paying the record labels royalty fees and compensation, but the offer was rejected by the industry in July. IFPI in August filed a lawsuit against Kuro for copyright law violation. Wang refused to elaborate on the progress of the case.

However, Wang said he does not think iBIZ will successfully capitalize on the sector, citing the example of Apple Computer Inc, which launched its online music service, iTunes, with songs for US$0.99 each and reported selling 14 million song-downloads as of the end of October. But iTunes has still not broken even yet.

"I think it's a result of the high royalties charged by the record labels," Wang said, "Apple makes money from selling its mp3 players, which is the only direction iBIZ can go if it wants to survive in the industry."

In response, Vickie Lee (李玉琪), marketing manager of iBIZ, said the company was not concerned about the problem, as it has already formed an alliance with several consumer-electronics companies to produce players specifically for iBIZ files featuring storage of 10,000 songs or above.

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