Is PlayLouder Playing Itself? Backpedalling Begins

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PlayLouder is now closing a deal with a major, UK-based ISP.

Or is it?  Earlier this week, PlayLouder cofounder Paul Sanders told paidContent that a deal was imminent, noting that “we are confident that we will have something quite good to announce in the next couple of months.”  According to information supplied by Sanders to paidContent, that deal would “pay record labels for songs illegally downloaded by its customers,” an exaggerated claim that quickly drew criticism from industry executives.

Among other issues, sources pointed Digital Music News to a PlayLouder licensing portfolio that only includes two major labels.  Additionally, a closer inspection revealed a product architecture that only enables file-sharing within the closed confines of the ISP, and prevents sharing with outsiders.

Questioned on the disparities, Sanders told Digital Music News only that “our model is widely known and discussed already,” and declined to discuss any details.  But in an interview with Billboard on Thursday, PlayLouder chief executive Paul Hitchman offered an about-face, dismissing any reports of and ISP deal as “pure speculation,” reversing the bold claims made just days earlier.  “Obviously in the light of all the interest in ISPs potentially working with music companies, I think that’s led to a lot of the speculation,” Hitchman offered.

Hitchman is referring to broader speculation that British labels, ISPs, and other rights holders are considering an ISP-level surcharge that would legalize sharing across P2P networks.  That certainly represents an enticing possibility, though top-level executives appear mostly cool on the prospect.  “There was never any discussion of any levy or tax or anything resembling that whatsoever,” British Music Rights (BMR) chief executive Feargal Sharkey told Digital Music News in an interview late last month.  The comments immediately followed the announcement of a campaign that will send thousands of letters to infringing ISP subscribers in Britain.