Virgin Media to offer "revolutionary" music download service
Like music? Soon Virgin Media will let you have as much as you want of the stuff, and they'll let you keep it forever. Don't want to pay for it, though? Then Virgin Media will chop off your internet pipe and squat on the coffee table. That's the choice you have, more or less, as Branson Corp attempt to change the future of consumer media in the UK.
Virgin has announced a distribution deal with Universal Music that'll allow broadband customers to both stream and download as many tracks as they want from Universal Music's entire catalogue in return for a monthly subscription fee, expected to be £10 to £20. All downloaded music will be available to keep permanently and used on any MP3 player.
There's no name for this new wunder-service yet, which would knock the iTunes store's pay-per-track nonsense into a cocked hat. Of course, despite the name Universal Music doesn't own every artist under the corporate sun, so Virgin Media are still negotiating with other major and independent labels and publishers to broaden and deepen the selection of music on offer.
That's the deliciously sickly sweet ying of the announcement, but there's a sour yang that'll bring a look about your face similar to vinegar strokes. As Virgin put it in their press release:
"The new service reflects the shared commitment of Virgin Media and Universal Music to keep step with growing demand for online music in an increasingly digital world. In parallel, the two companies will be working together to protect Universal Music's intellectual property and drive a material reduction in the unauthorized distribution of its repertoire across Virgin Media's network."
In other words, the marriage of the service provider and the content provider will mean an increased motivation to deal with online piracy; the ISP will believe it's losing out financially if tracks offered on subscription are pirated. Virgin says that "temporary suspension of internet access" would be a last resort for "persistent offenders" who download illegally.
Oddly, they also state "the process [of suspending access] will not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media". If Virgin aren't going to monitor what a customer is downloading, then how will they know if it's legal or not? Remote viewing? Voodoo? If there's somebody more geeky than the bozos currently sat in the BW office playing bread frisbee, do let us know.