Universal Music artist Sarah Bettens is at the center of a "covermount" row in Belgium.

The Belgian Federation of Distributors and Retailers (FEDIS) has filed a complaint with the federal department of economic affairs over the distribution of Bettens' second album "Shine" in tomorrow's edition of "De Morgen."

The newspaper has struck a licensing deal with Universal Music here to offer 120,000 copies of the 12-track CD with the Saturday newspaper. "Shine", Bettens' first album with Universal, will be available at retail from Nov. 2.

Fedis argues that Belgian law forbids "coupled sales" and says it is unhappy that Universal is actively promoting the idea of music being available to consumers for free. Fedis is intending to set up joint campaigns with the record industry to promote CD sales, "exactly the contrary to what Universal is doing", the federation says in a statement.

Universal Music marketing director Niels Dierckx says the covermount campaign is attractive to everybody involved. "We get Sarah Bettens' music with the audience that is close to her way of life - people who read De Morgen. And we get access to a new audience potential, people that will become fans eventually," Dierckx explains.

"We also get huge media exposure with this campaign - it's not evident to get that kind of exposure with a local release," Dierckx notes.

The in-store version of the album will contain six extra live tracks, recorded at a showcase on Oct. 10.

Newspaper-mounted covermounts has been a hot topic in Britain this year. Industry chatter on the issue reached a crescendo when the "Mail on Sunday" newspaper gave away more than two million copies of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells,” and a similar number for Prince’s new studio album “Planet Earth.”

Free Record Shop Belgium chain managing director Erik Lejeune says the experiment is bad news for music sellers. "As retailers we promote the sale of physical products, that's our core business - we don't like to see this happen. It's a good thing for Sarah Bettens, and a good marketing story but we prefer to see this as a one off."

Dierckx says the latest giveaway is a test case for Universal in the Belgian market. "We understand the reaction of the retailers but we also see that they are diversifying with games and DVD's and have less space in their racks for music," he said. "Let's face it, the Oct. 13 newspaper will be in the bin next week, the buzz created by the campaign will benefit further sales of the album once it will be released."

Bettens' previous solo album "Scream" sold 8,000 copies in Belgium on the Idol Media label.