Merlin, the independent label community's digital rights agency, has accumulated more than 12,000 members to-date, Billboard.biz has learned.

The London-based association, which opened for business in January during the Midem trade fair in Cannes, now boasts what it claims is the world's biggest collection of digital music rights outside of the four majors.

"Having sent out our membership agreements about four weeks ago, we've had a very quick sign-up rate and we have already one of the biggest -- at least the most compelling -- market-wide set of rights," Merlin CEO Charles Caldas tells Billboard.biz.

Merlin's membership from the United States includes Koch, Concord, Razor and Tie, Saddle Creek and Epitaph, while in the United Kingdom, Beggars Group, Domino, Warp, Cooking Vinyl, and Kitchenware are among those indies on board.

Continental European members include [PIAS] Group, Wagram, Naïve, SPV, Ministry of Sound Germany, Edel/Kontor, Aggro Berlin and Naidoo Records.

"We have the biggest independents in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Brazil... there's just a whole range of territories where the market leaders have come on board," notes Caldas.

The not-for-profit rights body now has offices within the Copyright House building on Berners Street in central London, which houses collecting societies the MCPS-PRS Alliance.

Caldas says Merlin is currently in discussions with a variety of music services, including MySpace Music. He adds that Merlin has met with Nokia, whose "Comes With Music" pre-loaded music phone is one of the industry's buzz topics and whose music store is mapping out a launch program across various territories.

The indies' agency is in talks with a "number of other companies," says Caldas, although details are bound by various non-disclosure and confidential limitations.

While Merlin has yet to crack its first deal with a service provider, a breakthrough is apparently just around the corner.

"We're talking with lots of people at the moment," Caldas notes. "Over the coming months, I'm confident we'll see a range of announcements on actions and deals. We've spent a lot of time focusing on getting the structure right."

Merlin was unveiled to the international music and technology community at Midem 2007 with a bold statement to empower the indies as the "virtual fifth major."