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Danish ISP bundles free music subscription

But there's a catch

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TDC, Denmark's biggest ISP, is bundling a free music service with its broadband offering. And no, it's not a 1 April story - as we'll see from the caveats.

While the service, PLAY, offers songs from three of the four biggest labels, it's not a "legal P2P file-sharing" service of the kind we so often discuss here.

The songs will be shackled with DRM and expire after 30 days if the customer leaves the ISP. While this may allay big label concerns about the "Homer Simpson Factor" inherent in all-you-can-eat subscription services, it fails to provide supply-side incentives, or commercially exploit our desire to share music.

"You can't have a subscription model where somebody on a monthly model of say $10, goes on in January, downloads six million tracks, and leaves in February," IFPI chairman told John Kennedy earlier this year.

However, with DRM the consumer has no incentive to share songs, which under a system such as PlayLouder MSP positively rewards the copyright holder, providing an economic incentive to create and promote music.

So while the price is right, it's more of a threat to commercial music "stores" such as iTunes and Amazon, and rival subscription services such as eMusic, than it is to unlicensed P2P.

In contast to the independent labels and collection societies, the major labels have thwarted bundled music services. In June 2006 Tiscali was forced to pull an on-demand streaming service called Jukebox, based on software from "P2P radio" startup Mercora (now Social.FM). Tiscali had won the support of Società Consortile Fonografici (the Italian equivalent of our PPL). And all four major labels have shunned the DRM-free eMusic service, which claims number two spot in the US digital music market, despite the arrival of Amazon.

The world's biggest label, Universal, continues to go its own way - striking its own opaque deals with telecoms and consumer electronics companies (for example, Nokia) which leave creators' representatives puzzled. EMI, Warner, and Sony BMG are participating in TDC's Play, but Universal is not. ®

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