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Extended iTunes song samples stalled due to licensing issues

Apple's plan to announce extended iTunes song samples on Sept. 1 met with late opposition from publishers, according to a new report.

Greg Sandoval of CNET reported Tuesday that a rollout of longer iTunes samples may have been blocked by the National Music Publishers Association. In an earlier report published just days before Apple's Sept. 1 event, Sandoval predicted Apple would bump iTunes song samples from 30 seconds to 60 seconds, but the announcement failed to materialize at the event.

According to Sandoval, Apple's agreements with just the four major record companies to provide longer song samples weren't enough. When both the NMPA's general counsel and chief executive learned of Apple's plan by reading CNET's report, they contacted the Cupertino, Calif., company with their objections.

"We believe that a license is necessary, and conversations must occur before song samples are extended," NMPA general counsel Jay Rosenthal told CNET last Wednesday.

Several publishers have felt that they're not getting their fair share from iTunes, as they believe Apple should pay performance rights for song samples. Apple had countered with the argument that a 30-second sample is promotional, but its push for longer samples has reopened the debate.

Hanna Pantle, a spokeswoman for BMI, which collects royalties for songwriters and publishers, said the organization is currently in "active negotiations" with Apple about the length of song samples.

Music industry insiders say Apple "tried to rush a deal through" without securing agreements from all the necessary parties.

As the "number one music community in the world" with over 160 million users in 23 countries, iTunes certainly has leverage with the labels and publishers. But, it may face stiffer competition this fall as Google readies its own online music store.