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BMI in Deals with MSN, Yahoo!

Performing rights group Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), which recently won the right to secure royalty payments from radio stations who stream its content over the Internet, said Tuesday that it has penned long-term music licensing agreements covering MSN Music and Yahoo!

Once payment and performance data is received, fees collected from the public performances on the MSN and Yahoo! sites will be distributed as royalties to the songwriters, composers and music publishers of the works New York-based BMI represents. The agreements will cover all public performances of the approximately 4.5 million songs and musical works in the BMI canon, which includes work from some 350,000 artists.

"We are happy that we have been able to arrive at equitable agreements that help to build the Internet as a legitimate venue for the performance of BMI music. Since we signed the industry's first music performance agreement for the Web in 1995, we have focused on creating agreements that work for our licensees, songwriters and publishers alike," said Richard Conlon, vice president of marketing and business development in Media Licensing for BMI. "These most recent agreements underscore our dedication and that of our licensees to developing the digital music market."

The agreement comes a day after it was announced that broadcasters and the recording industry reached a tentative settlement over whether or not broadcasters should pay royalties when they play their stations' programming online. Terms of the deal were not made public.

The pacts also underscore the importance of artist compensation, an area muddied in the past two years by file-swapping sites such as Napster and Gnutella and the lawsuits they invited by allowing millions of users access to millions of songs for free. Record companies and artists took a long legal stand and, for the most part, emerged victorious. The fallout from all of the legal wrangling has been a kind of "do it legally" decree by many firms hoping to monetize the distribution of online music, which has led to a slew of such services.

In fact, the BMI announcement comes in the middle of a month dominated by online music subscription service rollouts, in addition to other music destination plays. Just yesterday, Yahoo! drew the curtain on its Music portal, which is branded with and powered by LAUNCH Media, a company it absorbed last June for $12 million in cash. Listen.com has already rolled out Rhapsody, and RealNetworks Inc. and America Online have already debuted their incarnations of MusicNet.