Elizabeth Davidson reports

BIRD & Bird partner Mark Haftke has broken new legal ground by drawing up the contracts for a new service on the Web site of George Michael's record company, Aegean Records.

The service allows consumers to buy compact discs by digitally downloading tracks on to either a hard drive or a CD-Rom and paying for it by credit card.

Haftke said the work was precedent-setting because he was unaware of any similar project. The project involved a mixture of media and IT law.

Haftke drafted contracts with three main companies the Post Office, telephone company AT&T, and Liquid Audio, a supplier of software which enables the online delivery of sound recordings.

He said Aegean Records had pioneered the service because it was an artist-backed label, whereas some major companies which wanted to sell music in the same way could not because they feared offending record shops such as HMV and Our Price.

The tracks, by artists on the Aegean label, cannot be copied again so there is no risk of piracy. The Web site is available at www.aegean.net.