updated 10:45 am EST, Mon January 28, 2008
Qtrax in Doubt
Peer-to-peer service Qtrax is raising controversy by failing to make its intended Monday release date and offer what it claims would be some of the first free, legal peer-to-peer downloads from all four major music labels, says a report from Silicon Alley Insider. Although Qtrax has claimed that it would launch today with music from EMI, Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner, a challenge by the Bay Area publication reveals that most of the deals are either incomplete or unknown. Both EMI and Warner have denied authorizing music altogether; Universal is in talks with Qtrax while Sony BMG has not responded at all, according to the report.
Spokespeople for Qtrax have issued contradicting responses, at first maintaining that all four labels were onboard but later saying that it was in talks with Warner in addition to Universal. As planned, the service would have begun with more than 5 million songs from these labels alone, bringing it more on parity with iTunes and the few other services that have support from all four labels. About 25 million tracks should be available in total.
Promises by Qtrax for iPod support are also in doubt. The service, which operates off of the Gnutella peer-to-peer network and uses a variant of Songbird's jukebox software, is currently built around the incompatible Windows Media copy protection format to fingerprint and safeguard tracks but will allegedly provide a Mac client and cross-platform iPod support later this year. Neither platform supports copy-protected Windows Media files and would otherwise require a license for Apple's FairPlay anti-copying scheme, which is so far available only for songs bought through iTunes as well as a small number of DVDs from Fox. Apple has not licensed FairPlay to other online music services and has not confirmed any such deals with Qtrax.