Music publisher EMI (who are behind such artists as Kate Bush, David Bowie and Robbie Williams) have announced that they are to partner up with legal P2P music service Mashboxx to distribute EMI's back catalogue of tracks. Under the terms of the deal, EMI will make its entire catalogue of digital recordings available via a Mashboxx provided P2P service.

Mashboxx, which is still currently under development, is a P2P client that is part of a new generation of legal music sharing service. The software has a feature which identifies music tracks across the P2P network that are legit, blocking those that aren’t available for legal download. The service also includes a sampler function that allows users to play a track up to five times before buying it.

Once a customer has purchased a track from Mashboxx, they will be able to burn it on to CD up to a total of seven times, and will be able to play the track on five different PCs and transfer it to an unlimited number of portable Windows Media-compatible players.

The move is additional evidence that music publishers are being forced to embrace P2P as a means of furthering their long term survival, but are doing so under their own terms, and are imposing rules that make it very difficult to use the tracks for anything other than personal use.

"When it rolls out, Mashboxx will be a no-obligation way for fans to really immerse themselves in discovering music, turning their friends on to what they like, and getting excited about artists and music they've not yet heard," said David Munns, chairman and CEO of EMI Music North America and vice chairman of EMI Music Worldwide.

"It has the potential to be a very good revenue stream for those who make their living from creating and investing in music."