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The Week In Streaming: MIDEM, MySpace, and More

At the Midem conference in the southern French Riviera city of Cannes this week, a new music licensing agency announced it has reached an agreement with international independent record labels to sell recordings on the MySpace.com and YouTube.com websites.

Independent music labels make up 30% of the global music market, but have had difficulty–with the exception of limited success on iTunes–in gaining a consistent voice in the digital music distribution space. The MySpace/YouTube is of interest on its own, but the vehicle by which independent labels will begin to speak with a unified voice–a new licensing agency called Merlin–may have significant impact on both the offline and online licensing and distribution of music.

According to a Financial Times article, the content will be sold as unprotected MP3 files on MySpace, which will allow the files to be played on any MP3 playback device. Which means it’s not only compatible with the Apple iPod, but also the Microsoft Zune and every other portable audio player on the market.

At the same conference, a small French company offered companies like MySpace, who have been sued in the past for copyright infringement, and companies like YouTube, which have narrowly averted lawsuits, a new technology designed to track down the digital equivalent of a movie or song’s "fingerprints" to root out copyrighted material that may have been uploaded to the video sharing sites. The technology, called AdvestiGate by the company Advestigo works in a manner similar to earlier technologies pioneered by encoding.com that were used to identify music CDs for cataloging purposes.

The company claims the technology will match the fingerprints of copyrighted content in its database even if the original content has been altered, although details have not been disclosed on how the technology would exempt from the filter or differentiate fair use or paid reuse of content. Even though YouTube has avoided being sued by Universal Music Group, Advestigo’s CEO seems to think it’s only a matter of time.

"Video-sharing websites are permanently at risk of litigation," says Michel Roux, "by unintentionally distributing copyrighted content online."

Meanwhile, a half a world away from Cannes, the French national telecom carrier, France Telecom, chose its Silicon Valley research and development office to announce the rollout of a new brand–Orange Labs–and mentioned that it is considering building its own internet advertising feed tool. The move to consolidate and brand its R&D facilities, according to France Telecom CEO Didier Lombard, was announced in Silicon Valley as further evidence France Telecom is abandoning its not-invented here mentality.

France Telecom’s move toward an in-house advertising delivery solution signifies the importance that advertising – especially rich media advertising – revenue streams can play for telcos that have both wireline and wireless networks. While the move follows the natural curve a large telco follows as it adds core services, it could have significant revenue impacts for Yahoo, which currently supplies online advertising feeds to France Telecom.

Continuing westward, news is coming out of China that legal downloads are slowly gaining an edge on pirated downloads. While sites such as the Nasdaq-listed Baidu, China’s biggest search provider, make it easy to find copyrighted material–to the extent that content can be downloaded or played directly from the search provider’s web search results page–there has been an uptick in legitimate downloads over the past few months.

This move, while slow, could be due to the fact that the Chinese government is showing more interest in curbing piracy as copyright holders have increased the number of litigations against Chinese companies, some of which the government holds a majority stake in. Even after a lawsuit by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) against Baidu was dismissed in Beijing late last year, the search company announced that it plans to set up an advertising-supported streaming media service and that it will partner with EMI, a large music company that has chosen to disassociate itself from an appeal that IFPI is filing.

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