Join 3,513 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Public Libraries Offer DRM-free Music Downloads
July 30, 2010 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Free music downloads without committing piracy! Freegal is a new service that libraries around the country are now offering to library card holders (up to 20 per week per library card). Freegal offers DRM-free mp3 downloads with no third-party application involved from Sony’s massive music catalog.

Some say libraries who use this service are subsidizing public music purchases. Others love it.
posted by morganannie (28 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, I never need to buy another Sony CD again!
posted by smackfu at 11:34 AM on July 30, 2010


It really does just seem like libraries subsidizing my purchases though. Except that since it's not my money, the barrier to deciding to "buy" is much lower.

“Libraries are only charged for the use, or per download,” he said, calling the price “competitive in the retail market,”
posted by smackfu at 11:37 AM on July 30, 2010


Of course this is all dependent on which libraries buy in, and I'm assuming it might be expensive.

Great post.
posted by makethemost at 11:37 AM on July 30, 2010


I really dislike most stand-alone download software for ebooks and audio books, so just giving a single download link is pretty cool. For reference, emusic charges around 20 dollars a month for similar access to sony's catalog, and you're limited to 50 downloads total.
posted by codacorolla at 11:42 AM on July 30, 2010


Except that since it's not my money

I thought libraries were supported with public funds. It is your money, in some sense.
posted by hippybear at 12:02 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the subsidizing public music purchases link:

Freegal leaves it up to the libraries to determine any sort of rights management. Therefore, if libraries aren’t savvy about their patron downloads, they could essentially give music away for permanent storage and use on their patrons’ hard drives. Thus, libraries become mechanisms for free music rather than public sources for lending.

Right, because if I borrow a physical CD from a library there's no way for me to rip a perfect lossless copy and permanently store it in digital format of my choice.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:05 PM on July 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


What's all this about a free gal?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:05 PM on July 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Some say libraries who use this service are subsidizing public music purchases

you say that like it's a bad thing - I kind of love the idea of a large, public funded institution taking care of the "business model" for arts in the digital age.
posted by victors at 12:11 PM on July 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


In Iowa if you have a library card it's more or less honored at any library (some make you get a card there as well). So as long as one library subscribes I am set!

Well, if I still had an interest in downloading music. That was beaten out of me.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:16 PM on July 30, 2010


you say that like it's a bad thing

no - just stating what the article talks about.
posted by morganannie at 12:17 PM on July 30, 2010


I am a member of Santa Clara County Library.

Some initial observations:

1. Browsing for music in Freegal is a frustrating experience: it's basically an alphabetical list of artists in each genre, paginated with about 60 or so per page. If you know exactly what you're looking for, not so bad. If you're trying to discover new music: a disaster.

2. Finding what you are looking for is hit-and-miss: if it's a Sony artist, it's there, otherwise not. But I don't know off the top of my head what artists are on Sony labels and what aren't.

3. Although their search box is decent: it auto-suggests as you type, so if you want to do a quick check for "is this artist in Freegal", starting to search for it and seeing if it gets auto-suggested is quick and easy.

4. Santa Clara have limited it to 3 downloads per user per week...

5. ...and this week's download budget has already filled, so you get put into next week's "wishlist" which really means "come back and try again next week":
In the event that your library exceeds its download budget for the week, you will see "add to wishlist" in place of the "download now" command. Adding your music to the wishlist will place you in a "first come, first serve" line to get more music when it becomes available, which is at 12:01 am each Monday. At that point your music is on hold for you for 24 hours (so no need to set your alarm clock) for you to proactively download. You should visit the Wishlist area on the top part of the home page to see the music that you requested, and if it is available.

If you do not see the "download now" command in the Wish List area, it means so many people were waiting in line that you need to check back on a subsequent Monday.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:19 PM on July 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


you say that like it's a bad thing - I kind of love the idea of a large, public funded institution taking care of the "business model" for arts in the digital age.

I guess the tricky part is that there is no difference between getting the item in this case from the library or buying it yourself. There is no "trade-off" like there is with normal library books, where you can read them for free but need to bring them back after a few weeks. That trade-off is enough to provide a reason for the "rich" to still buy books, while not much of a detriment to the "poor" who can't avoid to buy the books and who need to use the library.

The trade-off for the MP3s seems to simply be capacity limits, which would affect the rich and poor alike.
posted by smackfu at 1:09 PM on July 30, 2010


eponysterical
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:25 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is no "trade-off" like there is with normal library books, where you can read them for free but need to bring them back after a few weeks. That trade-off is enough to provide a reason for the "rich" to still buy books, while not much of a detriment to the "poor" who can't avoid to buy the books and who need to use the library.

But that's not really something that was purposely built into libraries from the beginning, it is just a natural limitation of giving people access to physical books. I doubt that librarians sit around thinking "How can we make our services crappy enough that rich people won't bother, but decent enough that poor people will still show up?"

Rich people can use the library, it's for everyone. It's not like food stamps where you can only qualify for benefits if your income is below a certain level. Giving poor people a public service and encouraging everyone else to pay for private alternatives is a great way to ensure that those public services are underfunded and unpopular.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:44 PM on July 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


My library is cutting hours and employees, asking patrons to donate books, and, generally fighting for its existence in the midst of budget crises. The library also has an excellent and extensive collection of cds and dvds which can be checked out. I see no reason to use public funds to promote Sony.
posted by charlesminus at 2:02 PM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


burnmp3s "Giving poor people a public service and encouraging everyone else to pay for private alternatives is a great way to ensure that those public services are underfunded and unpopular".Succinct and oh so very right. Right as in correct, certainly not political. Something, I dare say, many European countries understand much better than many of our politicians and government entities. Thanks for the reminder. And guess what capitalism and free enterprise still thrives in the countries where public services are designed and used by all.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:06 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


no - just stating what the article talks about.

and I'm just using a colloquial expression to make the point that I think there is promise in the general idea. I'm not surprised if this particular implementation sucks or if there's only one player (Sony) so far, etc. etc.

I'm reacting to the general concept of using libraries as a licensor and distributor to solve the larger issue of how to monetize an otherwise freely available product.

Giving poor people a public service and encouraging everyone else to pay for private alternatives is a great way to ensure that those public services are underfunded and unpopular.

musicians and film makers are underfunded and (occasionally) very popular - that's the problem I see this fixing. Who, rich or poor, is filling their 8GB iPhones with purchased music?
posted by victors at 2:47 PM on July 30, 2010


Who, rich or poor, is filling their 8GB iPhones with purchased music?

Between my CD collection and the vinyl I own that I've ripped to mp3, it's a LOT more than 8GB.
posted by hippybear at 3:06 PM on July 30, 2010


Who, rich or poor, is filling their 8GB iPhones with purchased music?

Are you really saying no one has an 8 GB music collection? I bought the largest iPod I could find -- 160 GB -- because it was the only one that would hold all my music.
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:46 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


160gb of 192kb CBR AAC is about 222 days of listening at 8 hours a day without a repeat (but check my math). Seriously - when do you get time to listen to it all?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:13 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you really saying no one has an 8 GB music collection? I bought the largest iPod I could find -- 160 GB -- because it was the only one that would hold all my music.

Are you really saying that everybody that bought an iPhone has 160 GB of 100% legal purchased music that, assuming it's legal to do so, is ripping them out to their phones? (see how generalizations work?)

Much more to the point: the whole of the Sony catalogue is freely available to anybody and, with 25 million concurrent connections at TBP at any given moment, I doubt there's a demographic worth squabbling over. Sony knows that much, which is why they are experimenting with this library model. I, for one, would encourage this one over other methods they have tried.
posted by victors at 4:18 PM on July 30, 2010


Are you really saying that everybody that bought an iPhone has 160 GB of 100% legal purchased music that, assuming it's legal to do so, is ripping them out to their phones? (see how generalizations work?)

I'm sorry, I've actually lost track of what it is you're trying to say. I was honestly looking for clarification, but you're responding with sarcasm, so you've lost me.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:35 PM on July 30, 2010


I'm saying that the music industry is struggling with how to cope with freely available digital copies of their product. A gov. subsidized institution (could be semi-private like NPR, PBS) that licenses all the music for bulk rate and then distributes to everybody is an interesting way to go.

You're a collector of music and you have a very large old-media collection. All great, but anecdotal and somewhat atypical of the average person that buys a smartphone with GBs of room for media today and trending (hard) the other way into the future.
posted by victors at 4:46 PM on July 30, 2010


OK ... Well, I don't know how atypical I am. I'm starting out not with a 160 GB music collection, but about half that. I don't consider it so huge. It's a lot of imported CDs and a lot of music from my monthly eMusic subscription. That subscription gives me 35-ish new tracks a month (which are very economically priced), so it's important to me to have plenty of extra space so I don't feel like I've maxed out on buying music.

Of course I realize that many people have much smaller music collections than mine and that many people get most of their music illegally. But I wasn't trying to make some generalization that everyone is like me. I was giving 160 GB as an example to put 8 GB in perspective: I'd consider that a pretty small music collection. I consider my 80-ish GB collection medium-sized, and in fact quite inadequate relative to the kind of library I'd like to have. (Just having a decent reference library of classical and jazz, let alone other genres, takes up sooo much space.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:54 PM on July 30, 2010


"A gov. subsidized institution (could be semi-private like NPR, PBS) that licenses all the music for bulk rate and then distributes to everybody is an interesting way to go."

But we'd have Canadians driving across the border to download our sweet, sweet My Morning Jacket albums!
posted by klangklangston at 7:45 PM on July 30, 2010


Universal music care now!
posted by klangklangston at 7:46 PM on July 30, 2010


But we'd have Canadians driving across the border

sparking the black market in bootleg library cards
posted by victors at 9:58 PM on July 30, 2010


Minor update on my earlier comment: I checked back on Freegal this morning and everything is now showing as "Limit Exceeded".

So far, Sony's catalog seems entirely safe from any risk of being downloaded by me.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:08 AM on August 2, 2010


« Older Acousmata is a unique music blog devoted to "idios...  |  Arron Diaz of Dresden Codak (p... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments