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Tuesday, June 07, 2005, 05:00 am PT (08:00 am ET)

iTunes service to arrive in Japan this August - Paper

Apple Computer plans to launch its iTunes online music download service in Japan this August, an overseas report says.

Japan represents the largest international music market unconquered by Apple's ubiquitous iTunes service.

According to the Nihon Keizai business daily, major Japanese record companies, including Columbia Music Entertainment Inc., Avex Group Holdings Inc. and Toshiba-EMI Ltd., have agreed to provide songs for the service.

But not all the labels are willing to jump to terms and market their music through online download services. Sony Music Entertainment of Japan has reportedly yet to agree on contract terms with Apple.

Apple began meeting with Japan's major music labels in 2003, but saw negotiations progress at a minimal pace until recently.

The iPod maker was hoping its Japanese service would sell music tracks for the equivalent of US $0.99 (about 110 yen). At the time, existing Japanese music services were charging double that rate, and with the average cost of an audio CD hovering around US $30, some labels were telling Apple to buzz off.

The labels also claimed that Apple's copy protection measures were inadequate and demanded the company impose additional limitations to prevent illegal copying of digital music.

When Apple launches the service later this summer, the price for downloading a song in Japan is expected to be set at around 150 yen ($1.40).

The arrival of an iTunes download service is likely to speed up growth of the digital music market in Japan, where digital music players have only recently become very popular.