The independent music community's digital rights agency Merlin has slammed what it calls the "downright arrogant" approach of MySpace Music for launching in Australia without a licensing deal covering its members.

News Corp's MySpace Music went live Oct. 1 in Australia, the second market to launch behind the U.S. However, as Billboard.biz reported last week, the service went ahead without a licensing arrangement in place with Merlin, meaning the vast majority of Australia's independent music community were not represented from the start.

Merlin has now blasted MySpace Music for apparently shutting out independent labels and labels. "MySpace Music's ongoing disregard for the value of independent repertoire is underlined again with this Australian MySpace Music launch," commented Merlin's London-based CEO Charles Caldas, in a statement issued by trade body the Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR).

Caldas, the former CEO of Melbourne-based independent Shock Records, continued: "For MySpace, which has built its brand on the breadth and diversity of its music, to launch a service without the valuable global independent repertoire Merlin represents is disappointing enough, but to launch without offering the repertoire of any of the major local independents we represent including Shock, Inertia and Liberation is downright arrogant, and shows an enormous disrespect for the Australian independent community."

According to Merlin, 40% of the equity in MySpace Music is owned by major labels, the remainder by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Speaking with Billboard.biz before last week's launch, MySpace Australia business development director Nick Love insisted the social-networking giant was keen to find peace with Merlin and the indies.

"From my perspective I want everyone on board," he said. "I want all the indie labels in Australia on board so we can really showcase all the great Australian music that's out there." MySpace Music has not responded to the AIR statement.

Marcus Seal, managing director of the Shock Group of Companies and a Merlin board member, said in the AIR statement that his company was "deeply affronted at MySpace's appalling attitude to this most creative sector of the artistic community".

David Vodicka, chairman of trade body the Australian Independent Record Labels Association and owner of Rubber Records, also took a swipe in the statement at the some of the country's decision-makers and politicians (including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull) who provided personal playlists for the social music platform at launch.

"It is extremely disappointing that Australia's leading politicians have provided their tacit endorsement of this new service," said Vodicka, "without regard to the rights of Australian independent creators and content owners."