Virgin, Universal to Offer Unlimited MP3s

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In an effort to help and curtail online music piracy, Universal Music will partner up with U.K. telecommunications ("telco," if you're British) provider Virgin Media to launch an unlimited downloadable music service. This service will set users back anywhere from $16 - $24 (10 - 15 pounds) a month and it allows them unlimited access to Universal's entire catalog. Users can either download DRM free MP3s or simply stream the music of their choosing. This service is another step towards combating P2P file sharing and music piracy and it could -- if it is received well and can become a success -- be a viable example of how internet service providers can help curb illegal music downloads.

The worst of offenders - those users that cannot help themselves and choose to download illegal music at their will-- may face punishment such as getting their internet use suspended. 

Obviously, this service only pertains to those who use Virgin as their service provider, and it is a strictly U.K. undertaking at this moment. However, the implications of this service will go to prove just how effective a internet service provider can be in curtailing illegal music downloads. Similar music downloading services, such as eMusic, started out like this, offering users unlimited downloads for a monthly fee. However, as I have documented, the fun that was once eMusic is slowly dissipating as the service jumps in bed with Sony Music. But eMusic was available to anyone with an internet connection, regardless of their provider. Universal's move comes to only those users who choose Virgin Media as their internet provider.

Online music piracy is most likely not going anywhere anytime soon. The relative ease for internet users to get whatever album they want whenever they want is something that the major record labels and even internet service providers cannot put a stop to. For all those incredibly smart, techno-savvy employees of the different internet service providers, there are even smarter, savvier internet whiz kids that will find a way around any sort of impositions or blockades in getting their music. 

So it makes sense, then, that Virgin and Universal would launch a service that requires a rather minimal fee and provides their users with the freedom to download whatever they want without fear of the feds knocking on their door. This new service, which should be in place by the end of the year, teaches responsibility with regards to downloading music, and hopefully it can usher in a new era in the way people get their music.

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