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Monday, June 15, 2009
Virgin and Universal Music to Offer Unlimited MP3 Downloads in UK

Cable TV operator Virgin Media today unveiled plans for a 'ground-breaking' digital music service that will offer consumers unlimited music downloads through a partnership with Universal.

The service will enable any Virgin Media broadband customer to both stream and download as many music tracks (in the MP3 format) and albums as they want from Universal Music's entire catalog, in return for a monthly subscription fee. Downloaded music will be theirs to keep permanently and to store on any MP3 compatible device. An "entry level" offer will also be available for customers who download music regularly, but may not want an unlimited service.

The service is intended to launch later this year. Virgin Media said that other UK major and independent music labels and publishers are expected to join the service. ffer a complete, compelling catalog by the time it launches.

The two companies will be also working together to protect Universal Music's intellectual property and drive a material reduction in the unauthorized distribution of its repertoire across Virgin Media's network.

This will involve implementing a range of different strategies to educate file sharers about online piracy and to raise awareness of legal alternatives. They include, as a last resort for persistent offenders, a temporary suspension of internet access. Virgin said no customers would be permanently disconnected, however. "The process will not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media," the company added.

The music industry has been desperate to boost digital sales in recent years to overcome the impact of piracy and has slowly signed up to new online services which offer music in a range of different ways.

Vivendi's Universal Music Group has also agreed an online subscription music service with Britain's largest pay-TV firm, BSkyB, at a range of pricing levels.

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