RealTime IT News

My.MP3 Returns to the Web

MP3.com emerged from the bunkers Tuesday, relaunching its My.MP3.com service which for nearly a year has been beset by copyright infringement lawsuits brought by major record labels and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The only difference? Submit to ads and store a maximum of 25 CDs, or pay an annual fee and store up to 500 CDs with fewer advertisements and more functionality.

The company shut down the service -- which lets users store music digitally and access it from any computer connected to the Internet -- in May after an April finding by a U.S. District Court that it had violated copyright protections. MP3.com settled with four of the five labels, agreeing to pay Warner Music Group, Sony Music Group, BMG Entertainment and EMI Recorded Music $20 million each. Seagram's Universal Music Group held out and the court ruled MP3.com should pay the company $53.4 million. Following the legal maneuvers, all five labels entered licensing agreements with MP3.com, allowing it to legally store music from their catalogs.

"Consumers don't necessarily want to hear about the incredible engineering that went behind the creation of this technology, but rest assured that it's a monumental achievement," said Michael Robertson, chairman and chief executive officer of MP3.com. "What's important is that music fans can now easily store, manage and play their CD collection online."

The service has emerged at two pricing levels. The first is a free, advertising-driven model that allows users to store up to 25 CDs. The second is a premier subscription account, with an annual fee of $49.95, which allows users to store up to 500 CDs. Existing My.MP3.com users can still access their music using their previous passwords, and any existing tracks "grandfathered" to users' accounts will not affect the total number of CDs that can be stored at either pricing level. MP3.com also said that free and premier accounts alike will have access to the catalog of more than 750,000 songs and audio files currently available on the MP3.com site at no charge.

Last week, David Bowie became the first major label artist included in the My.MP3 service. MP3.com said users who add the recently released "Bowie at the Beeb" CD to their accounts using Beam-it will receive a free bonus track not available on the physical disc.

"This is a great day for music fans," said Robin Richards, president and chief operating officer of MP3.com. "It's also terrific for artists and labels who stand to benefit from potential new revenues. We believe that the service will stimulate CD sales and generate enthusiastic activity from our users."

The caveat is that only songs or CDs contained in MP3.com's licensed catalog of content will be available for use by eligible registered My.MP3.com account holders. That means fans of artists from small or independent labels that haven't cut deals with MP3.com -- or still have pending litigation against the company -- won't be storing their favorite music with the service anytime soon.