Coming soon: free music from UK ISP’s

Stop speculating, the alternative has arrived: Internet users in the UK can soon expect free, legal MP3s as part of their ISP subscription, now ISPs here have a quick and easy solution that will allow them to offer legal music downloads to customers, from 7Digital.

The UK service today announced a new range of services for ISPs, services designed to enable them to offer integrated, legitimate music download services to customers. And 7Digital is already meeting with ISPs with a view to offering music to subscribers.

What makes this deal interesting – particularly with its emergence just days since Sky and Universal announced their own music offering, is that it represents music labels and ISP’s attempting to find some shared collective vision in which music fans gain access legitimately – meaning moves against illegitimate access can be ramped-up on strength of their being a legitimate alternative (that is also digital). That’s just an observation. It must be worth seeing a little more on how this game plays out.

Anyway – the vision for 7Digital is to enable internet-users to download music legitimately in a high quality, DRM-free MP3 format. Which means music will work with all music players, naturally including iPod and iPhones.

The introduction follows the landmark recent agreement between the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and six UK ISPs. This deal means broadband customers will be sent letters warning them if the BPI detects what it alleges to be an infringement (stealing music) using their internet connection. Rights activists correctly argue this legitimises private snooping of an individual’s internet habits.

Despite reservations, it is a step, and legitimacy is an important step. Ben Drury, CEO of 7digital calls the new range of services, “a natural step” for ISPs. He thinks it will enable ISPs to offer music downloads and streaming to their existing customers.

Three different services are available:  

– White label download services allowing broadband customers to purchase high quality MP3s directly from their ISP. The cost of the downloaded music will be automatically included in the customer’s monthly bill;

– Subscription and bundled services which allow customers to download music or stream tracks directly to their computer. This option can be included in a broadband subscription or as a premium cost option;
– A partnership with that offers ISPs the capacity to create a download service with minimal investment. The ISP can still offer free music as part of the customer’s monthly package, but without the full costs of creating and managing a service.

Drury said, “We’ve always believed that the best way to combat piracy is to offer incredibly compelling legal services with great pricing and quality of service. ISPs already have existing billing relationships with their customers providing internet access alongside services including email, anti-virus protection and online backup. With legal MP3 sales rocketing and 7digital pioneering the way, we are in a unique position to offer this full suite of services to suit individual ISP’s requirements.”

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