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Skype strikes deals with music publishers

Company secures necessary agreements to sell hundreds of thousands of songs from Warner Music as ring tones.

Skype, the free Internet calling service owned by eBay, has struck deals with three major music publishers to distribute hundreds of thousands of songs as ring tones.

The agreements, announced Tuesday, are with EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Warner/Chappell Music. Skype also signed a deal with the MCPS-PRS Alliance, a U.K.-based organization that collects license fees and distributes royalties generated from recorded music.

Skype's new license agreements allow the company to distribute ring tones from Warner Music Group artists. Skype users can use the ring tones on their PCs or smart phones running Skype software for playback when they receive incoming calls.

In January, the company struck a deal with Warner Music Group, which distributes music from artists such as Madonna, Green Day and Red Hot Chili Peppers, to sell snippets of songs as ring tones. But in order to sell the ring tones, Skype also had to obtain separate agreements with music publishers that own the copyrights to those songs.

The agreement between Skype and the music publishers is important, because it is the first time music-publishing companies that own copyrights to songs have given licensing permission worldwide. Previously, licenses were granted only for a particular region or country.

Initially, only Skype users in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland will be able to download the Warner Music Group ring tones. But within a few weeks, the rest of Skype's more than 94.6 million registered users worldwide will able to download the ring tones, the company said.

Earlier on Tuesday, several publications, including the New York Post, wrongly stated that the agreements Skype had obtained would be used to launch an online music store that would rival Apple Computer's iTunes.

But a Skype representative .

"We won't be selling full songs," said Erica Jostedt, a spokeswoman for Skype. "There are no plans for selling music online other than in the form of a ring tone."