Virgin and Universal in DRM-free music deal

16 Jun 2009

Universal Music, the world’s largest record company, has signed a unique deal with Virgin Media centering around DRM-free (Digital Rights Managed) music, in a bid to combat online piracy.

This new deal will see the end of the old download model of limited downloads, allowing customers to keep all downloads and make unlimited copies for any of their media devices or PCs.

On this unlimited plan, Virgin Media broadband subscribers in the UK will pay a monthly subscription fee in return for as many songs and albums as they want, streamed and downloaded, from Universal Music’s entire catalogue.

So what’s the twist? Well, Virgin Media, as an internet service provider (ISP), will offer this unlimited Universal Music download model to subscribers, but in return it will temporarily suspend users found to be illegally downloading copyright content from file-sharing sites.

Has the music industry found the Achilles’ heel of the illegal downloader by offering exclusive deals to ISPs in return for tempting content deals?

Well, yes and no because Virgin Media has said that it will not actually be carrying out network monitoring or intercepting traffic to catch out the offenders, according to Information Week.

Virgin Media phrases all this in the official press release as: “The two companies will be working together to protect Universal Music’s intellectual property and drive a material reduction in the unauthorised distribution of its repertoire across Virgin Media’s network.”

Virgin Media’s CEO Neil Berkett said: “In terms of both convenience and value, our new music service will be superior to anything that’s available online today and provides a fair deal for both consumers and artists.

“There is no better example of Virgin Media’s commitment to harnessing digital technology to give customers what they want, when they want and how they want.”

The service will launch later this year, and Virgin is currently negotiating with other UK labels for more content by the launch date.

By Marie Boran