eBay Flirts With Digital Music Downloads

Friday, July 16th 2004, 12:02 pm
By: News On 6

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Online auction giant eBay Inc. will allow some customers to buy and sell digital music files as part of a pilot program that could piggyback on the success of Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes service.

San Jose, Calif.-based eBay said an unspecified number of ``preapproved'' users could conduct digital music transactions in eBay's new ``Digital Downloads'' category for the next 180 days. Executives will then determine whether to formally enter the market.

``We don't want to blow this out of proportion _ this is a pilot program to see if there's even any demand,'' said eBay spokesman Hani Durzy. ``Much of what happens on eBay happens because the community takes us there, and this is essentially giving the community a way to see if we should create this new venue.''

The experiment, announced this week in a posting on eBay's Web site, reverses a longstanding policy at the world's largest auction company.

For years, eBay included digital music on its list of forbidden merchandise, along with human corpses, weapons and drugs. The company still forbids most digital downloads, including software, video delivered through peer-to-peer file-sharing communities and e-books.

Customer service representatives will monitor eBay's fledging music site and try to ensure that the sellers own copyrights to the songs.

EBay's venture comes the same week that Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple announced that 100 million songs had been sold at its iTunes Music Store.