Internet media company RealNetworks is preparing to launch its online music service Rhapsody in Europe within the next year, its chief executive revealed yesterday (April 8).

Internet media company RealNetworks is preparing to launch its online music service Rhapsody in Europe within the next year, its chief executive told a German newspaper yesterday (April 8).

"Six months to a year from now is realistic," Rob Glaser said in an interview in the Financial Times Deutschland, two weeks after his company won a landmark case against Microsoft that could boost adoption of its media player.

He said selling music downloads, which is already a fast-growing business in the United States, would soon become viable in Europe as European authorities begin to crack down on illegal online file-sharing.

"Actions against file-sharing sites should intensify in Europe in the coming months. We are already seeing the first signs of this," Glaser told the paper.

He added, though: "European customers are still too much of the opinion that music is to be had for free."

A legal clampdown on music file-sharing has recently spread from the United States to Europe and Canada and is set to become a global initiative as the music industry battles a slump in retail music sales it blames on rampant piracy.

Popular rival online music stores such as Apple Computer's iTunes and once-renegade song-swap service Napster, relaunched as a legal business by parent Roxio Inc., are also planning European launches this year.

Glaser said RealNetworks, whose latest media player can play most of its rivals' online music formats, has an advantage with Rhapsody because it allows unlimited music downloads for a regular subscription rather than charging per tune.

"The margin with this model is significantly higher than that for single purchases," he said.

Glaser reiterated that RealNetworks was talking to computer makers about the impact of the European Commission's ruling last month that Microsoft must strip its media software from its operating system to give rivals a better chance.

"We are negotiating at the moment with hardware producers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard to better position our product in the market in the wake of the European Union ruling," he said.

--Reuters