Universal Music Group Vs. The Internet Continues
News of the new policy recently reached fans via a letter from Universal artist Colbie Caillat, who posted the following email to her MySpace friends.
"Hey everyone... bad news," the letter read. "Due to circumstances beyond my control I have to swap the songs out on my page for 90 second versions instead of full length versions. In fact some of the songs have already been swapped as I write this."
"Every artist signed to a Universal label has to comply immediately," Caillat continued. "Hopefully the politics involved here gets worked out soon and we can return to full length songs as soon as possible."
The new limitations on digital streaming are just the latest in a series of maverick moves by Universal, who this summer declined to renew their licensing arrangement with Apple's iTunes store in an effort to avoid a long term agreement with the retailer.
According to reports from Wired.com, the new policy is actually not so new, having gone into effect several months ago. The change requires that all Universal labels limit music posting on third party sites to 90 second samples, with the only exception being sites with previously existing contracts with Universal which allow them to stream the full song.
As the parent company of numerous labels, including Def Jam, Interscope and Motown Records - Universal's latest step will affect digital files for a huge number of artists across multiple genres.
The other alternative for Universal labels is to add an audio tag to the beginning and end of audio files rather than truncate songs at 90 seconds, however, most labels have chosen to limit their files to 90 seconds.
Universal's policy applies to any site where music can be embedded, with the exception of Universal's own official sites, which continue to offer free on-demand streaming of certain complete songs.