Sing a Song for Sixpence

Apple Computer made a bold move this week to help solve the recording industry's biggest problem - sharing free music on the Internet. A new Apple service will help "keep the consumer honest" by offering any of some 200,000 songs from five major record companies for 99 cents each (or $9.99 an album).

This pay-per-download service will at least attract music lovers who know they are eroding the creative purpose of copyright protections for artists when they take music off websites that facilitate open sharing of songs.

Apple's move comes amid continuing legal and legislative battles over whether such web services help facilitate copyright piracy. The first such site, Napster, was shut down by a court order in 2000. Last week, a federal judge decided two other file-sharing sites, Morpheus and Grokster, were not infringing on copyrights. He suggested Congress may need to settle this question of music piracy.

Apple's site may succeed if its playlist can compete against the enormous number of songs available on the "free" sites. Many record-company executives don't want to allow unlimited downloading on legal sites, especially for 99 cents. But Apple's venture at least provides common ground for music consumers and the industry to help their favorite artists earn a living.

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