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Microsoft downloading Euro digital music plan

Cyberbiz brief

Microsoft is getting in on the digital music download game, but not in the U.S.

Software giant joined with British company On Demand Distribution to launch a European pay-per-download music service Thursday similar to Apple’s iTunes and other competitors in the U.S.

MSN Music Club and Tiscali Music Club (named after the giant European ISP) will offer more than 200,000 songs by 8,500 artists from all five major labels and independents. In line with U.S. pricing, songs are e0.99 ($1.11) or 75 British pence ($1.20).

It’s the first Pan-European legal music download service in which users pay per song. ITunes and its competitors have rights to sell downloads only in the U.S.

Service will be featured on Windows Media Player and encoded in Microsoft’s Windows Media format, which could add fuel to the fire in the company’s ongoing feud with European Union regulators. An EU rep reportedly said the new service strengthens its antitrust case, which includes the allegation that Microsoft is unfairly competing with other streaming media players by bundling Windows Media Player with its operating system.