Former Apple partner Musicmatch has released new software that offers users a limited ability to share purchased music legally.

Musicmatch Jukebox 9 introduces a new 'Send to a Friend' feature.

This allows subscribers to legally share complete playlists or individual songs, which recipients can listen to up to three times, even if they are not subscribers to the service.

Dennis Mudd, Musicmatch chairman and CEO, said: "We're truly putting the music universe in front of our customers and making it easy for them to enjoy it in a very personal and relevant way". The software is available only for Windows.

The release also marks a thawing of music-industry attitudes to legal music file-sharing, company senior vice president of business development Bob Ohlweiler explained: "Record companies like the fact that people can tell their friends and acquaintances about music; what the labels don't like about peer-to-peer is that it's free".

Inside Digital Media analyst Phil Leigh called this "an incremental feature", and predicted: "You'll probably see other people follow MusicMatch's lead, particularly if it proves successful - and my guess is that it will be".