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30. Legit music downloads

By Mark Alberstat

Dear Mousepad,

My friends have been using the sites you mentioned to download music, but I have been uncomfortable with the peer-to-peer aspect and also the "stealing" of copyrighted material. Are there any sites that may charge a fee for their music but it's not peer-to-peer?

J. Bryant, Middleton

A few weeks ago, this column focused on some of the programs and pitfalls of online file and music swapping, so-called peer-to-peer applications.

As many readers know, that kind of music sharing is illegal, and the federal governments in both Canada and the U.S. are starting to clamp down on this activity. That fact, however, should not curtail your enjoyment of online music, just the free exchange of it.

There are a number of online music services from which you can download music at a nominal cost. It is certainly more than the no-charge tunes found on the peer-to-peer applications, but it is also 100 per cent legal, and the chance of seeing the inside of a courtroom for downloading from these sites is smaller than the list on the back of a Vanilla Ice Greatest Hits CD.

The best known of the freebie-music programs was Napster. After being found guilty of copyright violation and shut down, this little-program-that-could was reborn as Napster 2.0. Today, is the home of a legitimate music-downloading site and has even teamed up with electronics giant Samsung to create the YP-910GS, a 20-gig USB digital audio player.

The market is full of such devices, but only this one has the endorsement of the one-time king of music downloading. For those who have seen, and liked, Napster's cool-cat TV commercials, the company's website has a complete viewable inventory of these ads in various musical genres.

Napster has contracts with five major record labels and "hundreds of independents", according to its website. This gives the company an online catalogue of more than 500,000 tracks, covering almost all musical genres.

Another big player in the legitimate music downloading business is and its associated software, Rhapsody. This company claims to have a whopping 45,000 albums under its digital belt and artists from A+ to Zap Mama. A nice feature Rhapsody offers is free 30-second preview clips of all of the music found in its on-demand music collection.

Both of these companies and the other big player,, earn their money from subscriptions and additional fees for creating CDs.

Subscriptions come in two basic types. The first allows you to listen to the company's music on demand or create your own Internet radio station for your own listening pleasure. For an additional charge, you can burn your own CDs of certain music in the company's catalogue. Note that not all music the companies offers for listening is available for burning.

If you are interested in joining one of these online services, shop around to see which company has the music you want at the price you are willing to pay and has the subscription options with which you agree.

Remember, a step back to the peer-to-peer world could get you some free music, but it is far from legal, while these options give you a legitimate, low-cost alternative.

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


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Originally published 14 March 2004


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