Pulling a RealOne


1 April 2005

RealOne has recently launched a subscription service that lets users download copyright-protected music and watch video programming over the Internet. The service is legitimate with MusicNet, the independent consortium made up of Warner Bros, Bertelsmann and EMI Group. 

Obviously, this copyright material comes at a price and is subject to heavy user conditions with fees and limits on maximum monthly downlands. Video and audio download limits are set and paid for separately and there are restrictions on how downloaded material is used and how long it is archived. 

Considering the fact that most of the pioneering ‘free’ music file-sharing sites are being challenged legally, RealOne may indicate direction of music on the Web.




Napster is in limbo, preparing to switch to a subscription-only service also through MusicNet. MP3.Com has changed its format and limits its selection. And the promoters of the popular music-sharing software Kazaa are under court order to control the wanton file sharing its software permits. 

Forking out $9.95 every month for a RealOne Music subscription allows you to download and stream up to 100 music tracks from the catalogues of MusicNet. A separate $9.95 monthly RealOne Membership gives you access to premium video content. A RealOne Gold account ($19.95 monthly) combines the two media. You get 125 streams and downloads as well as access to premium video content. 

The drawbacks are numerous. Subscribers get the rights to download and store up to 125 audio tracks that expire 30 days after they are downloaded. Some tracks can be carried over into the next 30-day period, but that eats into the next month’s maximum number of 125 downloads.

Also you can’t transfer downloaded digital music on to portable digital music players. RealOne says you can only play music on the PC on which it was downloaded. You can’t buy single audio tracks using the service, you must buy an entire album worth of music from Amazon.com, where RealOne sends all prospective music purchasers. Moreover, only 75,000 audio tracks were available for download at the time of its launch. This seriously pales in comparison to the variety available on the old Napster network, which carried ten times that number.

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