Spanish eyes smile on Puretunes MP3 downloads

Web site Puretunes.com has joined the ranks of Web sites taking advantage of the willingness of Spanish authors' and performers' rights societies to sign deals allowing unlimited downloads of digital music.

Puretunes says it will let music lovers download all the songs they want, legally, for US$3.99 a night or $13.99 a month -- and the artists will get a cut of the proceeds thanks to a licensing deal with the Spanish Association of Authors and Editors (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, SGAE) and the Association of Artists, Performers and Players (Asociación de Artistas, Intérpretes y Ejecutantes, AIE), it said in a statement.

Another company, Weblisten SA, said it signed a deal with SGAE and AIE in 1998, allowing it to comply with Spanish laws on intellectual property, and now offers unlimited downloads from a catalog of 140,000 songs at its site Weblisten.com, with a pricing structure similar to that of Puretunes.com.

Songs at Puretunes are stored in the MP3 audio file format, encoded at 128K bps (bits per second), which typically gives audio quality a little worse than a CD, and are not protected by any digital rights management technology, according to the Puretunes Web site. Weblisten makes songs available in both MP3 and WMA (Windows Media Audio) formats.

Puretunes says the songs available for download -- including Madonna's latest album, American Life -- will not contain any spoofs or viruses. In an effort to curb illegal sharing of her works on peer-to-peer services, Madonna reportedly had spoof files distributed on peer-to-peer services that appeared to be songs from American Life, but in fact contained a recording of her asking downloaders "What the f*** do you think you're doing?"

Staff at the SGAE and AIE could not immediately be reached for comment.

To use the Puretunes service, music fans must obtain and install a 6M-byte file that acts as the Puretunes browser and download tool. The application is only available for PCs running one of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating systems, but versions for Linux and Mac operating systems are planned, Puretunes said. The downloader contains no advertisements, spyware, digital rights management or other bundled applications, the company said.

Users pay a fixed fee for unlimited downloads during a set period of time, not per download. Eight hours' use from midnight to 8 a.m. GMT costs US$3.99, while a weekend (midnight Friday to midnight Sunday) costs US$9.99. Signing up for longer periods brings the rate down: one month costs US$24.99, and twelve months costs US$13.99/month.

Downloads are "fast," the company said, although it did not specify how fast.

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