NARM calls for pricing regs

Music retailers say major labes locking up internet

WASHINGTON — Exposing their growing bitterness, music retailers said Tuesday that the major labels are trying to hog online music distribution and cut out the middlemen.

In a letter to Recording Industry Assn. of America prexy Hilary Rosen, National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) topper Pamela Horovitz said there will be “no incentive” for music congloms to provide low prices or innovative Web sites if they are allowed to lock up the online market.

NARM supports legislation introduced last week on Capitol Hill that would force the recording biz to offer the same prices and other terms when licensing music to unaffiliated sites.

That measure, sponsored by Reps. Rick Boucher (R-Va.) and Chris Cannon (R-Utah), is designed to give a boost to competition for two online music services — Pressplay and MusicNet — being backed by the majors and scheduled to launch this fall.

The Dept. of Justice has launched a preliminary inquiry to make sure the two sites aren’t in violation of any antitrust regs.

Soon after Boucher’s bill was introduced, Rosen said it’s wrong for Congress to substitute regulation for market forces, adding that the majors are perfectly willing to license music to other Internet ventures.

Horovitz said in her letter to Rosen that she suspects otherwise.

“While NARM shares RIAA’s view that private-sector efforts are preferable to government regulation, music retailers have no choice but to seek legislative remedies when copyright owners refuse to engage in any meaningful discussion with them regarding digital distribution,” Horovitz wrote.

The RIAA could not be reached for comment regarding NARM’s letter.

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