This article written by Senior Counsel, Music, for RealNetworks, Inc., describes one new service which could provide a free and legal alternative to illegal downloading. The service it is about is called SpiralFrog which it says falls in the middle of the spectrum between free and illegal and for sale and legal. The free downloads are legal in this cause because the use of the digital music will be "limited" in that the downloads have a set time and then they become no longer playable, and they are not compatible with iPods. The service will be "free" because users do not have to pay money, they only have to watch an advertisement periodically while they have a download. With services like SpiralFrog, the idea is that users can get music for "free" as they have grown accustomed to, and the labels can still get paid.
This article is relevant to my research on why copyright owners fight technology such as peer-to-peer services that allows free downloads, but choose to waive their copyright in certain situations, such as MP3 blogs, because it is a description of a service that provides free music to users, while generating revenue to pay the copyright owners. The article is an optimistic view at the system as it comes from someone in the industry of ad based music providers. The service does pay the copyright holders, but in the restrictions it places on how users are able "own" music will probably make it unpopular to the copyright pessimists. The article in fact mentions one of the fears of DMCA and anti-device opponents because the downloaded songs will not be usable in iPods.