Internet phone giant Skype has reached deals with four major music publishers that will pave the way for it to launch an online music store.
The deal, which the companies say is the first of its kind, will allow Skype to license the copyrights from EMI Music Publishing, Warner-Chappell, Sony/ATV and the MCPS-PRS Alliance for downloading and ringtones, as well as for a subscription music service.
A formal announcement was expected Tuesday.
The deal marks the first time that music-publishing copyrights have been licensed on a worldwide basis. Previously, licenses had to be applied for on a territory by territory basis.
The deals allow Skype to begin offering ringtones for download from Warner Music's catalog of artists that have publishing deals with any of the four music publishers.
Previously, Warner Music Group (WMG), parent company of Warner-Chappell Music, reached a deal with Skype for the rights to its master recordings — the recorded version of a song.
But for Skype to begin offering the service, it needed to reach pacts with the publishers, who own the copyrights to the underlying songs.
Among the Warner artists whose music will be available on the Skype service are Madonna, Sean Paul and Rob Thomas.
[Skype is a subsidiary of eBay (EBAY). EMI Music Publishing is a unit of the EMI Group, based in London. Sony/ATV Music Publishing is jointly owned by Sony Corporation (SNE) and Michael Jackson. The MCPS-PRS Alliance is a working union of Britain's Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society and the Performing Rights Society, which are both nonprofit organizations.]