Conglom insured against claims, Messier sez

PARIS — Vivendi Universal chief Jean-Marie Messier on Monday brushed aside the threat of lawsuits against online music service, claiming complaints were “marginal” when compared with the thousands of artists using it.

The conglom, which is acquiring MP3, was “totally insured” against any claims resulting from lawsuits filed by 50 publishers and artists last week, he said.

Messier was speaking at a press conference unveiling Vivendi U’s latest scheme to get music lovers tuned into music on their mobile phones.

Universal Music Mobile will launch in France next month, offering customers dial-up music releases, and information about concerts and events.

The conglom is aiming for 200,000 customers in the 12-25 age group by the end of this year and 1 million by the beginning of 2003.

Unlike Vizzavi, Vivendi Universal’s yet-to-take-off portal joint venture with Vodafone, the new service does not involve Internet access. But it does depend on mobile-phone users taking to the idea of listening to music over their phones. Messier pointed out that French youngsters spend four hours a day listening to music — more time than they devote to their studies.

Messier also announced that the conglom had acquired the Olympia, one of Paris’ most prestigious music halls that has hosted Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, the Beatles and Elton John in its 107-year history.

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