• United States
by Ann Harrison

Spanish music site works around copyright issue

May 27, 20033 mins
AppleEnterprise ApplicationsiTunes

* Why Puretunes could rival Apple's iTunes

A Madrid company called Puretunes says it has received licenses from two Spanish rights agencies allowing it to distribute music files without official authorization from music publishers and record labels. Puretones is the second Spanish music Web site to assert that Spanish copyright law permits the securing of rights from secondary sources.

The first Spanish company to try this approach,, has been sued several times by European record labels. But the company continues to offer access to a large catalog of music, and it was just a matter of time before another such site emerged.

Unlike,, Puretunes is targeting English-speaking users and has stuck a distribution deal with the Grokster P2P network. Grokster will bundle Puretunes with its software download or make it accessible inside the Grokster software. Grokster, as you may recall, recently won a court decision in LA that beat back legal challenges by the recording industry.

Both and Puretunes say they are operating inside Spanish law and will reimburse artists and record labels for music downloaded off their sites. But the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry insists the companies have no legal right to distribute music without the permission of the record labels. The group also notes that WebListen is still fighting court challenges and half a dozen lawsuits.

Legal or not, Puretunes is setting a new pricing standard for online music. It has already bested the price point set by the much-hyped iTunes 99-cent store launched by Apple. Instead of charging 99 cents per track, Puretunes charges users $3.99 for eight hours of unlimited downloading. Music fans can also purchase 48 hours of unlimited downloading for $9.99 and a month of unlimited music files for $24.99.

Puretunes is also touting the fact that it offers a catalog of older material such as Beatles tunes, and music from bands like Nirvana and Metallica that have been difficult to locate via the music services directly licensed by music companies.

Even if Puretunes is unsuccessful in fighting off its legal challenges, it has pointed the way toward alternative models of paid downloads that are superior to what Apple has delivered. Despite the early success of the iTunes store, the Apple system still requires users to use Apple hardware, be a U.S. downloader, and settle for a catalog of mostly top hits and newer releases. Apple’s use of Dolby’s Advanced Audio Codec compressed audio format also compromises sound quality, and the purchased music files cannot be moved to a new machine should you wish to upgrade.

Apple has certainly made it easy to purchase licensed audio files and has shown clearly that people are willing to pay for downloadable music. But the iTunes store will not replace, displace, or erase file-sharing networks, especially those that offer services like Puretunes.