Europe's anachronistic music-licensing system is angering operators wanting to develop a legal licensed system for digital music distribution here, reports the BBC.

Roxio CEO Chris Gorog used influential European music event Midem to accuse European licensing groups of holding back legitimate online services, such as Apple's iTunes Music Store and Napster 2.0.

He pointed out that failure to deliver user-friendly services to music consumers here has helped encourage consumers, denied a popular choice, to steal music.

In an admission that could also reflect Apple's experience in the space, Gorog reportedly said: "We would like to debut with more than half a million tracks in Europe, but we are months away from a resolution."

Music-industry insiders have confirmed that the most likely cause for delaying the launch of legal digital music services in Europe will be found among Europe's publishing companies. Record labels, Macworld has learned, are ready to adopt such services, but moves to do so are being hindered by the publishing houses, many of which share single artists across different European territories.

A Reuters report yesterday said: "Old-fashioned red-tape" and Europe's legacy of localized music business set-ups, along with the absence of vital pan-European agreements among royalty-collecting agencies here are posing problems.

Operators face "a maze of licensing contracts, music release dates that differ by country and incompatible billing systems," the report states.