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After labels, Qtrax must satisfy Prince, Van Morrison

Web Sheriff says that, in addition to getting permission from music labels, Qtrax must get permission from artists if it wants to legally distribute their music online.

Should troubled file-sharing site Qtrax, eventually strike licensing deals with the major music companies, it still may face a significant hurdle.

Web Sheriff, a company representing music acts such as Prince, Van Morrison, and The Black Crowes, has notified Qtrax that it shouldn't think about offering their music, photographs, or other intellectual property until it has secured the artists' OK.

"Whilst Qtrax is an interesting model, many major label and indie artists will not be happy about their music being given away free (to consumers) in return for a currently opaque return from advertising revenues," said John Giacobbi, Web Sheriff's president, in an e-mail.

A British firm that protects digital content from piracy, Web Sheriff has informed Qtrax that in some instances artists must give permission--in addition to the music labels--before their songs can be legally distributed, Giacobbi said.

While Qtrax doesn't appear to have begun offering music downloads, there are photos posted to the site of artists such as the Foo Fighters, Daft Punk, and Wyclef Jean.

Daft Punk is on the EMI label while Jean and the Foo Fighters are represented by Sony BMG Music Entertainment. Representatives from Qtrax and the labels could not be reached for comment late Monday evening. It's unclear whether Qtrax has permission to use the photos.

"Any unauthorized use of copyright photos and/or copyright artwork is in violation of (the law)," Giacobbi said.

Qtrax wants to harness the popularity of illegal file sharing by offering a free, legal peer-to-peer service. The company said that it had deals in place that called for it to share ad revenue with music companies.

But Qtrax has been awash in controversy since Sunday, when questions were raised about whether the company possessed the rights to offer music from the four largest record companies.

For weeks, Qtrax managers had led reporters to believe that it had locked up licensing deals with the top record companies. Just hours before the site's scheduled Monday-morning launch, the labels began denying that the deals existed. Qtrax executives responded by holding up the unveiling of the music service.

Since then, sources close to the company said that Qtrax executives have waged an all-out campaign to tie up the loose ends. They have held numerous meetings with the labels during the Midem music conference in Cannes, France.

If nothing else, Qtrax's troubles show how hard it is to secure the many varied rights and releases needed to legally distribute music.

Giacobbi said he informed Qtrax's leaders that before offering music online, the start-up would first have to obtain master recording copyrights, musical composition copyrights, artwork copyrights, trademarks, performers' rights, moral rights, and publicity rights.