Monday, February 14, 2011

Some Libraries To Offer Free Music Downloads

I've been re-evaluating my goals for this blog, and one of the main ones is that I want to start writing more library-oriented posts, because that's what this blog was supposed to be. Well, now I've been given a great story to bring me back to that by my friend Rob over at Esoteric Timestream. Rob drew my attention to Tech News Today (part of the TWiT network of podcasts) episode 174, where they discuss Freegal.

Freegal is a service that allow libraries to pay a fee, listed as ranging from $1,000 to "six figures," to allow library users to download music for free. What's interesting is that the downloads are to keep, not like a "have the file for ______ days, then delete it" kinda thing that I have seen before. Also, according to TNT and the article they link to, these files are DRM-free (for anyone stumbling across this blog that doesn't understand that, DRM is Digital Rights Management, which is how, for example, iTunes can keep a music file limited to a set number of computers, or how movie companies can keep people from ripping a movie from a DVD).

I've seen libraries that offer free, DRM-free downloads before, but it's all "cultural" music, like folk recordings from obscure countries. But Freegal now has my attention because of their deal with major record label Sony. In fact, the article Tech News Today links to specifically mentions Ke$ha and Usher, two major selling artists. Freegal's president, Brian Downing, says that the full collection being offered to libraries contains over 400,000 songs from a variety of genres.

Freegal hasn't really made too many major headlines yet, which is surprising considering what it is offering. And they seem content with that, as their website's About page doesn't contain much information. But just the fact that a major label is working with them is intriguing. It makes me wonder if labels are finally ready to admit that they need to change now or fail eventually. Either way, I wish Freegal luck and hope they continue to expand and grow.

For more information:
Tech News Today episode 174: http://twit.tv/tnt174
Free Ke$ha And Usher Downloads Now Available At ... Your Public Library

Other stories covered or mentioned in that TNT include Facebook's secure connection (and how it turns itself off), the attack against a security firm by hacker group Anonymous, AOL's purchase of the Huffington Post, and Last.fm's decision to charge a fee for mobile access (which has also grabbed my attention and may see a post on this blog). So check that out if you're interested.

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