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Two Music-Download Services Adopt More Liberal Usage Policies

Two new music-download services, MusicMatch and Napster 2.0, are taking a cue from Apple’s iTunes Store, delivering subscription-free services with per-song download fees and more liberal transfer and CD-burning policies than the first generation of authorized download services.

Like iTunes, the services let users burn any song to a CD or transfer any song to a portable device. Unlike iTunes, however, transfers will be compatible with multiple brands of portable devices that support the DRM-protected Windows Media Audio (WMA) format. Downloads from iTunes can be transferred only to Apple’s iPods.

For its part, subscription-service MusicNet said it plans to liberalize its usage policies in October or November based on renegotiated rights with music companies. The company currently allows its partners to offer disc burning, but transfers to portable devices aren’t allowed. To date, MusicNet’s sole partner is AOL, which limits the total number of burns per subscriber to 10 per month.

Among the new services, Roxio’s Napster 2.0 will go live by Christmas with two service options: nonsubscription and subscription. For its nonsubscription service, Napster 2.0 will lets users download a song for 99 cents, burn it as many times as they want to a CD in Redbook Audio form, and transfer the song to an unlimited number of compatible portable devices. Users won’t be able to e-mail songs, but they will be able to play the songs from at least two other PCs that have been registered with the service.

Napster’s subscription-based service will offer the same usage rules and price per download, but for $9.95/month, users will also get a “deeper, richer” experience that includes streaming service, the company said. Napster 2.0 promises access to more than 500,000 songs from the big-five music companies and from hundreds of independent labels. The service will be tightly integrated with Samsung’s first HDD music portable, the co-branded Samsung/Napster YP910, and with future cobranded Samsung devices. Integration will, among other things, enable users to drag-and-drop playlists from their PC directly to the portable device instead of transferring one song at a time.

The YP910 will pack a 20GB hard drive, MP3 encoder and FM tuner at an expected everyday $399. The unit also transmits audio via FM wirelessly for playback by a car or home stereo.

Napster 2.0 will replace Pressplay, the subscription-based streaming and download service that Roxio recently purchased earlier this year from Sony and Universal. That service, which was discontinued on Oct. 7, also let users burn and transfer songs with usage rules as liberal as Napster 2.0 service, but Pressplay didn’t start out with such liberal policies.

As for the MusicMatch service launched in recent weeks, the company offers more than 200,000 songs from the big five and 30 independents, and the company promises 500,000 songs by the end of the year. Download functionality is integrated into the company’s MusicMatch Jukebox music-management software.

MusicMatch’s 160kbps Windows Media Audio 9 downloads cost 99 cents each, or $9.99 for most albums.

MusicMatch personal-use features include:

  • Unlimited transfers to the user’s WMA-compatible portable, but not to friends’ portables.
  • The ability to burn each downloaded song in Redbook Audio form to an unlimited number of CDs, although only five discs can be burned with the same playlist of Redbook songs.
  • The ability to play the compressed-music files on up to three PCs in three different locations. Downloaders must use their user name and password to register the PCs on-line with MusicMatch. After that, the file can be played from those PCs without being connected to the Internet. The compressed files can be exported to the second and third PCs via e-mail or via a WMA CD.

For additional details, see