U.K.-based Oxfam is launching what is billed as the world's first charity download site. The service, at www.bignoisemusic.com, will go live this Wednesday with 300,000 titles licensed from major and

U.K.-based Oxfam is launching what is billed as the world's first charity download site. The service, at www.bignoisemusic.com, will go live this Wednesday with 300,000 titles licensed from major and independent labels.

Oxfam is an independent registered charity, launched in 1942 as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief.

Downloads at the new service are digitalized in Microsoft's Windows Media format, and are individually priced from £0.75 ($1.32). Ten percent of all sales will be collected by Oxfam to distribute to the needy. Agreements are already in place with U.K. collecting bodies the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society and Performing Right Society.

London-based digital music service provider OD2 is handling the backend technology, licensing and billing to the service. OD2 acts as the back room for more than 30 European Web retailers, including MTV Europe, French retailer FNAC, Microsoft's Web portal MSN, Pan-European portal Tiscali and music store HMV.

Visitors will also be able to sign up to Oxfam's Big Noise petition, a global initiative which calls on governments to establish fairer trade policies. The petition has accrued more than 5 million signatures since members of Coldplay presented it to the World Trade Organization last September.

Various artists, including Coldplay, Badly Drawn Boy, and the Darkness are endorsing the new download project. Trade bodies the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and Assn. of Independent Music (AIM), among others, have embraced the service. "Aim welcomes Oxfam's entry into the digital music market. So many of our members will applaud and support the marriage of music with a mission to help poor people around the world," comments AIM CEO Alison Wenham. "This is great idea," adds BPI chairman Peter Jamieson.

Oxfam works internationally as part of a worldwide movement to help eradicate poverty and inequality. It has international divisions in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and the United States.

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