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Appeared on: Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Robbie Williams CD hits net, but is it a plant?

Songs from Robbie Williams's CD "Escapology" are appearing on free file-sharing Web sites days before the release hits the stores. But there's a catch -- many of the tracks, which Reuters heard on popular track-trading sites Morpheus MusicCity and Kazaa, appear to be decoys...

In some cases, the songs play for under 30 seconds before fading into silence. In other cases, they play without sound.

The practice of seeding the free file-trading networks with bogus tracks has quietly become a standard weapon in the major music labels' arsenal against online song piracy, a phenomenon they blame for dramatically eating into recorded music sales.

A spokeswoman for Williams's London-based record label EMI (EMI.L) declined to comment on the matter. The international release of "Escapology" is November 18.

EMI, which has made a huge bet on Williams, signing him to a mega-80 million pound ($126.4 million) record contract last month, cannot afford to take chances with piracy.

Since October 25, fans have been able to go to the performer's web site to listen to select tracks from "Escapology." That may explain why some songs, such as the single "Feel," appear in their entirety on the unofficial networks, but it would not explain the appearance of partial songs, technology specialists say.

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