Legal music download explosion

Three Australian music retailers and an e-tailer yesterday launched paid music download services, offering almost 100,000 tracks from two major record labels.

HMV, JB Hi-Fi, Sanity and are offering the same catalogue of songs from EMI and Festival Mushroom Records, with prices that start at 99 cents per track.

The download services are the product of Destra, which offers its catalogue through the afore-mentioned partners.

Destra plans to expand its catalogue of songs to 500,000 tracks by mid-2004.

Tracks are available in Windows Media Player format, with built-in controls that limit copying songs to CD or portable players at three times.

The technology will also prevent tracks being copied to "pirate websites", said Destra.

The retailer partners will differentiate their download services by letting customers redeem pre-paid music vouchers online.

Aimed at under-18s, the voucher offer will be similar to pre-paid mobile phones. Consumers will buy a music voucher at a retail outlet, then follow instructions to download the song(s) without the need for a credit card.