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"We often thought that an alliance with Napster would be the only possibility, but I don't believe it is right to give the advantage to pirates."
——Vivendi Universal Chairman Jean-Marie Messier

SONY, VIVENDI UNIVERSAL PERFORM ONLINE "DUET"

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For those of you who thought Elton John and Eminem made for an odd pair.

Vivendi Universal Chairman Jean-Marie Messier confirmed today that the French media giant has formed a joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment to create Duet, an online music site to compete with Napster.

Pre-merger Universal and Sony first announced plans for the venture in June of last year.

The new site plans to license music from Sony and VU's extensive catalogs—obviously—as well as buying licensing rights from other music companies.

"We hope to license 50 percent of the world's music," Messier said, in that adorable French accent of his.

This news comes just one day after Napster made public its billion-dollar offer (hitsdailydouble.com, 2/21) to avoid being shut down by the major labels. Messier made clear that this joint venture with Sony was an alternative to hooking up with the outlaw file-swapper—hinting that his company was already in discussions with other partners.

"We often thought that an alliance with Napster would be the only possibility," Messier said. "But I don't believe it is right to give the advantage to pirates."

Sony and Vivendi Universal will have equal ownership of Duet and will offer both a subscription service and a pay-per-listen option.

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