British cable operator Virgin Media is set to offer up an unlimited music download subscription program with Universal that would give you access to DRM-free MP3s as long as you pay a set monthly fee.
The service is set to cost £10-15, or about $16-$25, per month, and it would allow users to either stream or download as many tracks and albums from Universal's catalog as they want.
It's a great first step, but not one I would sign on for just yet. While a flat rate for unlimited MP3 downloads is amazing, having it only work for one label's catalog limits the value, even if it is a gigantic label such as Universal. If I'm gonna pay $20 a month, I want that to cover everything, not just some songs.
If you were looking for the catch, it's this: Virgin has agreed to be really strict about searching for piracy and cutting off the service of offenders.
It's a great precedent, however. If other labels jumped on board and the selection was more all-encompassing I can't imagine many people would be able to say no to legit all-you-can-eat music for a reasonable monthly fee. And if that existed, the excuses for piracy would be harder to justify. [Reuters]