Virgin Media has announced plans for a digital music download service designed to "bring about rapid and permanent change in the way UK consumers buy and listen to music.
Currently though, the Internet Service Provider only has the support of one major record label, Universal Music.
The service hasn't been named yet, but according to Virgin, alongside the launch of its music service, it will also be working together with Universal to prevent unlawful file sharing. The ISP said that this would involve "a range of different strategies
" designed to educate file sharers about online piracy, raising awareness of legal alternatives in the process.
These strategies might include "temporary suspension of Internet access,
" but Virgin was keen to point out that "no customers will be permanently disconnected.
It also rinsed its hands of the detective work as well - Universal will be handling that, presumably in conjunction with the various anti-piracy authorities (including the IFPI) in the UK. Virgin said that it will not be monitoring its networks or intercepting its customers' traffic itself.
The download service will be a subscription based add-on for your Virgin Media broadband package and will apparently cost "the price of a couple of albums per month.
In addition, there will be a streaming service and an 'entry level' free-of-charge package which Virgin says is for those who don't want unlimited access (or don't want to pay) to access the DRM-free service. With this, there will be limited downloads, but the ISP didn't go into any more detail.
Virgin said it is in talks with other record labels, but if it doesn't sign deals with these, it's doubtful whether the catalogue will be compelling enough to compete with existing legal (and illegal) services. Moreover, because of the lack of DRM, a lengthy contract will be imposed on the service to stop users signing up for just one month and downloading the complete Universal back catalogue.
The service is expected to launch later this year and will only be available to Virgin Media customers.
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