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The deal to put "tens of thousands" of songs on Rhapsody moves it further beyond its independent roots. Will deals like this allow it to gain ground on its deeper-pocketed rivals? has signed a licensing agreement to add a collection of Sony's copyrighted song catalog to its fledgling Rhapsody subscription service.

The deal with Sony Music Entertainment, a division of Sony, comes after last week's announcement that BMG Entertainment and EMI Recorded Music, also two major record labels, would license songs to's Rhapsody service.

San Francisco-based becomes the only subscription service unaffiliated with the record industry to sign licensing deals with three major record labels. Rhapsody, which launched in December, initially allowed people to stream songs owned by independent labels for a monthly fee. But adding major songs from major labels could put the start-up in closer competition with its deeper-pocketed rivals.

The five major record companies have already teamed up with the tech industry to launch two online subscription services--Pressplay and MusicNet. Both services are being, or will be, distributed through highly popular Web destinations: RealNetworks and America Online for MusicNet, and MSN and Yahoo for Pressplay.

Sony and Universal Music Group teamed up to create Pressplay. MusicNet is a venture between RealNetworks, AOL Time Warner and its Warner Music Group division, BMG and EMI.

The labels have fought fiercely in the courtroom against the proliferation of free, online file-swapping services such as Napster. Despite their legal success in stifling Napster, the onus is on the labels to create copyright-friendly services that tap consumer demand for accessing online music.

For Sony, the deal is another experiment in creating a business behind selling songs on the Internet. Sony will offer "tens of thousands" of songs to, the same scope of songs it is offering to Pressplay, Sony spokeswoman Laurie Jakobsen said.