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New U2 album makes early debut on P2P networks

Despite extreme measures to protect the album, the band's "No Line on the Horizon" has begun circulating on the Internet--a full week before release.

The album cover for U2's new album, "No Line on the Horizon." U2.com

Updated February 20 at 10 a.m. PST with alleged source of leak.

Despite extreme measures to prevent U2's new album from appearing prematurely on the Internet, copies of the band's "No Line on the Horizon" have begun circulating on file-swapping networks--a full week before its official release.

CD-quality copies of the band's 12th album, which is slated for release in Ireland on February 27 and worldwide on March 3, started appearing Wednesday on BitTorrent and now reportedly number in the hundreds of thousands. Copies were also found circulating on LimeWire.

The tracks began spreading across the Web after Universal Music Australia accidentally put them up for sale on its online music store, according to a report Friday in the Sydney Morning Herald.

After four tracks from the forthcoming album leaked on to the Internet last summer, the band decided not to send review copies of the album to the press, opting instead to have "listening parties" where journalists were prohibited from possessing recording devices--including cell phones.

The leak almost undoubtedly raises the ire of U2 manager Paul McGuinness, who has waged a vocal campaign against file-swapping sites and even blames some tech heavyweights with facilitating piracy. McGuinness wants to fight file sharing by forcing Internet service providers to ban people who pirate music, and suggested last year that Apple and other makers of digital music players were wrongly profiting from their "burglary kits."

At the time, he placed much of the blame on tech companies but also pointed a finger at record labels that "through lack of foresight and planning allowed a range of industries to arise that let people steal music."

However, the band has a poor track record when it comes to guarding unreleased music tracks. The summer leak was reportedly blamed on U2 front man Bono, who was caught playing the songs a bit too loudly on his stereo at his villa in the south of France.

In 2004, just before the release of their last album--"How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb"--the band reported that a CD containing unfinished music from that album had been stolen after a photo shoot in France. The band announced it would release that album immediately if tracks from the CD were leaked online. But when songs from the album began appearing online a few months later, the band said they were finished versions, not songs from the stolen CD.