Qtrax: Unlimited free mp3s, too good to be true?

28Jan08

Qtrax, a new service offering unlimited, free downloads from 25-30 million free tracks for download launched at midnight EST last night. Or rather it didn’t launch – the site still does not allow users to download the necessary software, more than six hours after its official launch time passed.

The service which benefits from P2P (peer-to-peer) downloading has reached a deal with the four largest music labels: Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI. The owners of the music will receive money each time one of their tracks is played.

Qtrax

Qtrax via kwout

Qtrax is attempting to create a viable alternative to illegal P2P downloading by providing high quality files without risk of viruses and mis-labeled tracks.

The money to pay the labels will come from advertising revenue. Whist looking for, and downloading music users will be streamed adverts via the Qtrax software.

Upon further research it becomes clear that the service Qtraz offers may well be too good to be true. Most of us who download music from the internet will be aware of the problem of music which is crippled by DRM (Digital Rights Management) software. The software is often attached to legal downloads which prevents users from having as much freedom as if they had downloaded the files illegally. DRM can prevent a track from being copied or played more than a certain number of times and can limit the type of hardware on which the files can be played.

As an example consider this. I payed for and downloaded the third season of Ricky Gervais’ Podcast from Itunes, but due to the file type I am unable to listen to this on my (non-Ipod) mp3 player. If I had illegally downloaded these files I would be able to listen to them away from my computer but as it is I am restricted when it comes to listening to content I payed for!

Tracks downloaded from Qtrax contain DRM software allowing Qtrax to keep tabs on how many times the file is played. The Record labels are payed per-play rather than per-download.

Girl wearing headphones

The songs will be able to be transferred to mp3 players but not burned onto a cd.

The tracks will not be compatible with Ipods, which will seriously limit the amount of people willing and able to use the service. Ipod integration is due to be launched in March all being well.

A Reuters article of the launch notes “[Qtrax] will also feature music videos, artist documentaries, interviews, album reviews and biographies among other features.” All-in-all this seems like an interesting service but I’m not sure if the DRM will put me off from using it. Hopefully once the launch is successful we will be able to tell if this will become a viable alternative to traditional P2P services.

Qtrax Link.

Update:

News.com.au is reporting that three of the big four record labels Qtrax claimed had authorized the use of their music have denied making any deal with the company. This is a major blow for Qtrax and may explain why the site has yet to launch. The site says

“Warner Music has issued a statement denying that it authorised any of its content for use on the Qtrax network. EMI and Universal also denied a licensing deal with Qtrax despite being in discussions with the company. Sony could not be reached for comment.”

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One Response to “Qtrax: Unlimited free mp3s, too good to be true?”

  1. Seemingly Qtrax will be launching a Mac service in March and somehow say that their DRM technology will work on ipods with them using Apple’s fairplay DRM technology so it’ll be interesting to see quite how they’ll achieve that.


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