Universal Music Group, the world’s top record label, agreed to a music-download service with British cable TV and broadband provider Virgin Media that will give subscribers unlimited DRM-free downloads of Universal’s entire catalogue. In return, Virgin will adopt new anti-piracy measures, including temporarily suspending offending clients’ Internet service. (The New York Times)
What the commentators said
The “first-of-its-kind” monthly subscription deal certainly sounds attractive, said Richard Koman in ZDNet, but making Virgin and other Internet service providers into “police dogs for the copyright industry” does not. Not only does it make the ISPs treat its customers like “criminals,” but “ISP spying” is also a “gross violation” of the ISP-consumer contract.
Consumers may not care, said Matt Rosoff in CNET News, if the price is right. Universal and other labels won’t settle for less than they get through iTunes, but “what’s fair to the industry may not seem fair to users, who have been downloading free music for almost a decade now.” If customers don’t get some other “tangible benefit,” like iTunes has with iPod connectivity, “a clear conscience and less chance of being sued” won’t be enough.
The unlimited service should cost a little less than two CDs a month, said Music Ally, but there will also be lower-priced set-downloads plans. And the “controversial” agreement to cut off pirates’ Internet service might also include “less interventionist measures” such as browser redirects from file-sharing sites and bandwidth throttling. If Virgin and Universal balance the carrots and sticks, this might just work.