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Qtrax — Ad-Supported Music With iPod Compatibility? 131

Posted by kdawson
from the see-it-when-i-believe-it dept.
dnormant writes in with a note about QTrax, a 5-year-old startup that just announced deals with all the major labels to provide free, ad-supported music downloads. The new wrinkle is that, though the free tracks come encumbered with Windows Media DRM, QTrax claims that they will be playable soon on iPods. Wired's assumption is that the company is on the verge of a deal with Apple to allow use of its FairPlay DRM in place of Microsoft's. (Apple hasn't licensed FairPlay to anyone so far.) The AP coverage of the story assumes that QTrax has found a way around FairPlay on the iPod, and if so, that its solution will break the next time Apple updates iTunes.
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Qtrax — Ad-Supported Music With iPod Compatibility?

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  • prior art (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @08:47PM (#22203958) Homepage
    QTrax, a 5-year-old startup that just announced deals with all the major labels to provide free, ad-supported music

    Hey, that's a pretty good idea. Maybe they could distribute them wirelessly... using radio waves!
  • "Assumes"? (Score:4, Informative)

    by dnwq (910646) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @08:47PM (#22203960)
    From the article: "We've had a technical breakthrough which enables us to put songs on an iPod without any interference from FairPlay," said Allan Klepfisz, Qtrax's president and chief executive. Seems pretty damn clear to me.
    • Idiots (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RetiredMidn (441788) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @10:19PM (#22204466) Homepage
      It's easy to put songs on an iPod without interference with FairPlay: use DRM-free music. Most writers, and /.ers, it would appear, seem to miss this point: Apple does not restrict non-FairPlay music from the iPod. Whatever DRM scheme Qtrax is using is designed to prevent music from being played on devices that don't license their DRM scheme.

      The only way Qtrax can get their music to play on the iPod is to a) make it DRM-free, which it doesn't sound like it's doing; b) use FairPlay DRM, which they seem to have eliminated; c) implement their DRM "client" (unlocking) on the iPod, which seems unlikely; or d) get Apple to license their DRM scheme for the iPod, retroactively. Yeah, that'll happen.

      I smell a rat: too many claims, too few details.

      • by Rix (54095)
        Write their own implementation of FairPlay.
        • ...but still not what I would call a long-term plan for success: handling ad-supported distribution of otherwise-free music and committing yourself to keeping up with Apple's avoidance maneuvers.

          But it does trigger a thought: what if the record companies are looking at a scheme where they'll release DRM'd music under Qtrax's nominally free ad-supported model, and adopt Apple's $0.99/track DRM-free alternative? I could live with it.
      • by Romancer (19668)
        Couldn't they just obfuscate the file on the ipod during the file transfer? The same way that apple does with itunes. Third party utilities have been out for a long time addressing this since the songs weren't meant to be accessable for retrieval once they were transfered to the ipod without itunes letting them. As long as the ipod can play the file they are ok.

        Adding a piece of software to run on the ipod seems like the most obvious method of doing this since it would allow access to the file by the firmwa
        • Re:Idiots (Score:4, Interesting)

          by DECS (891519) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:18AM (#22205062) Homepage Journal
          Apple doesn't "obfuscate the file on the ipod during the file transfer." If you're thinking of the private file system iTunes copies to the iPod when it copies tracks over (whether MP3/AAC or AAC-Fairplay), what's going on is that iTunes gives all the files identically long, pseudo-random file names to optimize reading and file system transversal on the iPod.

          It's not designed to hide anything, only to make reading files and transversing the file system simple. That's why you can browse the hidden directory and copy files back manually. Song files are hidden primarily to prevent users from mucking with the files once iTunes copies them over, so that the software won't have to deal with verifying file system integrity and externally edited files or directories. If Apple really wanted to hide the files or prevent you from getting them off, it knows how to create an encrypted file system disk image.

          Modifying the iPod's firmware to play back WMA wouldn't be impossible it seems, but doing so would be legally difficult for a commercial company. Rockbox and Linux can already run on the classic iPods. However, Apple could repeatedly bork every attempt with new firmware updates, just as it did to stop Real from shoving its DRM on the iPod.

          Apple is happy having Amazon sell MP3s for the iPod, but they're not going to stand for Helix, WMA or any other DRM system locking up music in a way that takes advantage of the iPod. Also, with Apple now selling two families of iPod, rolling out a system that works on both the Nano/Classic and the Touch/iPhone would be far more difficult for a Fairplay-compatible system like Real tried to do with Helix. They only copied the basic ACC format, no messing with the firmware.

          Getting WMA to play on the iPod would require a very sophisticated firmware change, and only the classic iPods are known to have WMA capable hardware. The Touch/iPhone likely only has hardware support for H.264.

          Playing ads on the iPod using DRM tracks would be absurd. It would be much easier to just serve up songs as video podcasts running ads or videos with ads, just like TV and the web, where users can ignore ads. Forcing the screen to play would rape battery life though, and who really needs ads to sponsor songs they can get for 99 cents or from CDs they own? A foolish idea all around it seems.

          Will Steve Jobs License Apples FairPlay DRM ? [roughlydrafted.com]
          How FairPlay Works: Apple's iTunes DRM Dilemma [roughlydrafted.com]

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Dr. Zowie (109983)

            It's not designed to hide anything, only to make reading files and transversing the file system simple.

            That doesn't really hold water. If the motivation for the funny names and the hidden directory was simply to make traversing the file system simple, then why would they bother preventing drag-outs from the iPod in iTunes? Newer versions of iTunes won't let you copy music back out of your iPod into your computer; it is now necessary to dive into the hidden directory.

            The directory may have originally been

            • by jrumney (197329)

              Clearly, the iPhone was designed to be completely locked up -- unlike the iPod, it doesn't get mounted as a file system when you plug it in. :-(

              Doesn't the iPod require a specific option to be set to do this? Does the iPhone have the same option hidden deep within its configuration menu?

            • by tlhIngan (30335)

              That doesn't really hold water. If the motivation for the funny names and the hidden directory was simply to make traversing the file system simple, then why would they bother preventing drag-outs from the iPod in iTunes? Newer versions of iTunes won't let you copy music back out of your iPod into your computer; it is now necessary to dive into the hidden directory.

              The directory may have originally been intended as you describe, but then they took advantage of the happy side effect of obfuscation, as part o

            • by DECS (891519)
              What connection do you see between file names on the iPod and how iTunes' graphical interface works?

              iTunes is certainly designed to guide users into using the iPod as a "pod" of music spun from iTunes' library, and not as an overt file sharing mechanism to copy/paste music between users' libraries. However, that has zero relation to how iTunes lays out the tracks it copies to the iPod.

              If Apple were trying to make an ultra secured media library on the iPod, it would have offered no HD disk mode and would hav
          • by jrumney (197329)

            Getting WMA to play on the iPod would require a very sophisticated firmware change, and only the classic iPods are known to have WMA capable hardware. The Touch/iPhone likely only has hardware support for H.264.

            H.264 is a video codec. WMA is an audio codec, which requires much less processor power to decode. I suspect that all iPods have plenty of processor power to do a software decode of WMA files, even with DRM thrown into the mix. Media acceleration is a recent thing for Windows Mobile PDAs (which all

            • by Lars T. (470328)

              Getting WMA to play on the iPod would require a very sophisticated firmware change, and only the classic iPods are known to have WMA capable hardware. The Touch/iPhone likely only has hardware support for H.264.

              H.264 is a video codec. WMA is an audio codec, which requires much less processor power to decode. I suspect that all iPods have plenty of processor power to do a software decode of WMA files, even with DRM thrown into the mix. Media acceleration is a recent thing for Windows Mobile PDAs (which all support WMA), and mostly is only required for the more heavily compressed video codecs.

              So why do people complain (even sue) because the iPod doesn't support WMA even so it is hardware supported?

              • by jrumney (197329)
                Some iPods may have a media accelerator in them with hardware support for WMA that is not used by the software. This has no bearing on whether all iPods are perfectly capable of decoding WMA in software.
          • "Rockbox and Linux can already run on the classic iPods."

            Not on the new 6th generation classic iPods they don't, thank you. Apple has implemented encrypted firmware on these newer models.
    • by thefear (1011449)

      From the article: "We've had a technical breakthrough which enables us to put songs on an iPod without any interference from FairPlay," said Allan Klepfisz, Qtrax's president and chief executive. Seems pretty damn clear to me.
      And that break-through was: Lawyer(tm) Let Lawyer(tm) solve all of your every day problems, from DRM licensing, to 'taking care' of people you just don't like, Lawyer(tm) does it all.
    • Re:"Assumes"? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3NO@SPAMphroggy.com> on Sunday January 27, 2008 @11:40PM (#22204902) Homepage
      Actually that's not clear at all, since FairPlay doesn't "interfere" with anything.

      FairPlay-encrypted AACs are one of the formats the iPod can natively play. Unencrypted AAC, MP3, WAV, AIFF, and Apple Lossless files are other formats the iPod can natively play.

      So, do they mean they've gotten a license from Apple to encrypt their own files with FairPlay DRM? Or do they mean they've reverse-engineered FairPlay so that they are able to sell FairPlay-encrypted AAC files without Apple's blessing? Or do they mean they're offering a hack for the iPod's firmware that will add support for their own DRM format? Or do they mean they're selling unencrypted files?

      If they mean they've gotten a license, I'll be very surprised. I can't see how it would be in Apple's interest, at this point, to license FairPlay to other companies*.

      If they mean they've reverse-engineered FairPlay, Real tried that already, and Apple sued and got them to stop. I can't see how this time around would be any different.

      If they mean they're offering a firmware hack, I can't see how they could possibly support every model of iPod out there, and Apple definitely won't be pleased. Since this would undoubtedly void Apple's warranty, I could see a lawsuit coming from this.

      If they mean they're selling non-DRM files, why wouldn't they just say that?

      Something's fishy here.

      * Option #1 isn't in Apple's interests, because Steve Jobs wants to strongarm the industry into going with option #4, which will be best for everyone, including Apple. By licensing FairPlay, Apple would lose the ability to do this.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by wiz_80 (15261)

        Something's fishy here.

        My assumption is that they have no idea how they are going to deal with the iPod-compatibility claims, but are hoping that by making enough noise and talking about it to anyone who will listen it will somehow magically happen.

        In fact I can quite easily imagine a meeting where somebody explained everything you mention, but all the PHBs were counting bonuses in their heads instead of listening.

        Certainly I will not be having anything to do with it. My personal use model has BitTorr

        • by wiz_80 (15261)

          According to El Reg [theregister.co.uk], they don't even serve the files - they scrape what's already shared on Gnutella and then filter it.

          Does this mean that sharing files via Gnutella is now supported by the record companies?

          /me exits, boggling

      • by iLogiK (878892)
        As I understand it they're going for option 1:
        They went to the labels with the idea of ad supported free music. The labels said fine, if you put DRM on them.
        Because of the success of the iPod the only viable DRM to put on the music so that people will be willing to put up with it is FairPlay.
        Apple won't go along with it because of the reason you mentioned, this is their plan. Have a popular music player that only works with the DRM from their store.
      • Here is your Qtrax DRM : Sell video files with song identification information and encrypted info for ignoring the video. Your player then ignores the video, playing just the music and downloading more updated banner ads instead. But on an iPod the song behaves like a video.
    • by prat393 (757559)
      Actually, when I click on the AP article, I get a weather update:

      Qtrax Aims to Offer IPod-Friendly Tracks
      Sunday January 27, 10:15 pm ET
      By Alex Veiga, AP Business Writer
      Qtrax File-Sharing Service Launches; Offers Free Music Downloads Compatible With IPods

      LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Fast-moving thunderstorms brought new waves of rain on Sunday to Southern California, following days of drenching weather and heavy mountain snowfall and raising fears of mudslides and flooding.

      The worst of the storm was over, and Monday
  • Isn't free ad-supported music called radio? Even if this lets you pick your own songs, why download them in DRMed, proprietary and ad-supported files? Isn't that why everyone moved to CD players and MP3 players to have all your own music with no ads?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      maybe some people want to keep it legal but still not pay for music? just a thought. you know, i know it's not real popular around slashdot but there are still people who believe that artists deserve support and if they can't afford a large catalog taking a few seconds out here and there to listen to an ad is a pretty good trade.

      or a better question is why buy them in a drmed proprietary format from a company that can't let in a little competition? why is it that apple still receives praise when the
      • There are other ways of getting legal music other then downloading it in DRMed Propriatary format with ads, although you may have to pay a bit more for them and there is radio. I wasn't trying to get into a debate about ethics only that free music with ads is simply a backwards step twards radio which is why we got MP3 players in the first place.

        or a better question is why buy them in a drmed proprietary format from a company that can't let in a little competition? why is it that apple still receives pr
        • Re:Radio (Score:4, Insightful)

          by DECS (891519) on Monday January 28, 2008 @01:56AM (#22205440) Homepage Journal
          When you say "a company that can't let in a little competition," are you arguing that:

          - Apple has thwarted any retail market for devices that are not iPods, as Microsoft prevented the sale of DOS and Windows alternatives?
          - that Apple should be forced to license FairPlay to other companies, like how Microsoft was forced to license Office to rival third parties for resale under different brands?
          - that Apple should be forced to fund alternatives to iTunes for use with the iPod, the way Microsoft has enabled integration with Notes clients from Exchange, or CalDAV from Outlook clients, or WiiConnect compatibility from the Xbox 360?
          - that the iPod should play WMA DRM, just like Microsoft supports PlayStation 3 games on the Xbox 360?
          - that Fairplay should work on PlaysForSure players, just as Microsoft had to support Win32 apps on Unix?

          Because any of those ideas would be batshit nuts. What were you really thinking?

          And when in recent history has Apple become "even worse than the big bad wolf Microsoft," as I missed the story about:

          - two decades of holding back better technology,
          - promising vaporware that wasn't delivered for years if ever,
          - being charged with monopoly market exploitation and overcharging customers by various states and countries,
          - attempting to cover it up political astroturf campaigns uncovered by the LA Times,
          - delivering unusable technology at absurd prices,
          - raising the price of a desktop OS by 400 percent
          - stealing code and violating copyright while advertising anti-piracy campaigns
          - tightening spyware-policed phone home DRM on their OS
          - starting a format war to control the world's media DRM and push a shitty authoring system like HDi
          - working to raise the price of media downloads while killing off all fair use rights like WMA and WMV
          - shipping a new OS whose main features revolve around HD DRM policing and OS Activation
          - inventing Paladium
          - delivering a crappy mobile OS they can't hardly sell but would love to stick the world with
          - delivering a proprietary alternative to PDF, JPEG, MP3, H.264, Java, OpenDocument and every other open format with the intent to screw the world with a poorly designed file architecture that forces dependence upon a derelict monopoly ... or anything else Microsoft-like. When did any of those things happen? Or are you talking about specific evils of Apple, such as:

          - delivering an open sourced alternative to the NT kernel
          - delivering an open sourced, standards based alternative to the IE browser engine
          - delivering an advanced graphics compositing engine for Vista to copy 7 years later
          - delivering the advanced Cocoa frameworks to power Mac OS X and the iPhone, well ahead of .NET
          - delivering a smartphone that blows away the state of the art and forces innovation into a dead industry
          - promoting an open alternative to DirectX in OpenGL
          - promoting an open alternative to WMA DRM with the MP3 playing iPod
          - promoting a mild DRM that offers fair use rights to revitalize the dead music industry
          - promoting an end to DRM restrictions in music downloads
          - promoting an open alternative to WMV/VC-1 by pushing joint development of ISO MPEG standards
          - creating a competitive music player that sells better than DRM obsessed, subscription touting rivals
          - creating a competitive operating system that sells better than DRM obsessed, authorization touting Vista
          - promoting the use of open file formats such as PDF, PNG, MP3/AAC, H.264, OpenDocument
          - promoting a standards based web and working on HTML 5 rather than a Win32/.NET/Flash-based web
          - contributing back to the GPL/BSD community in core OS, security, and web rendering
          - developing a calendar server and releasing it to the community under the free Apache license

          Anyway, that's why there's a difference. Not sure why its so invisible to you. Also, the sky is generally blue on clear days.

          Apple TV Promises to Take 2008 [roughlydrafted.com]

          • I was merely quoting part of the post before me, I belive exactly what you are saying but the guy above me (which I replied to) did not.
    • You're kidding, right? The ability to forever filter out and select only the songs that you want for free? Sign me up.
    • by billeeto (981533)
      what's nice about imeem is you can minimize the window and not have to see the ads, and they're small anyway. why are they promoting this qtrax idea of rented server space for limited use tracks, instead of pure streaming? i feel imeem has a shot at success.
  • ummm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @08:56PM (#22204000) Journal

    The new wrinkle is that, though the free tracks come encumbered with Windows Media DRM
    Yeah, that won't get cracked tomorrow.

    The DRM business model is interesting. Ideally it would work allowing for people to receive reduced-priced music at the cost of ads or usability (i.e. music only able to be used on one device like what's been floating around lately) but the reality is they're providing another type of DRM which will allow another method of cracking and receiving (in this case) free music.

    I realize that what they're trying for is a compromise, but as long as there are insanely poor college students with way too much time on their hands out there, the market they're targeting will never go for something like this in the way they intend.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by cheater512 (783349)
      I dont see why they have DRM. Its there to prevent unauthorised sharing.
      When your giving it away for free it kinda loses its purpose.

      Whats wrong with a mp3 with ads on it?
      • Because it can be edited to remove the ads?
        • Which is different from editing it to remove the DRM how?
          • by gaderael (1081429)
            So, how is the DRM implemented? Are the ads actually played at the beginning or end of the track? Based on answers to my first two questions, how hard would it be to use a program such as Audacity [sourceforge.net] to play them back in any format of your choosing without the DRM annoyance?
  • Or maybe ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NoMaster (142776) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @08:58PM (#22204012) Homepage Journal
    ... it's just PR-fluff designed so people don't write them off as irrelevant because they don't support the single most popular PMP on the market.

    I predict that the touted iPod-compatibility will remain "coming real soon now!" until the company is quietly wound down.

    • by djupedal (584558)
      " I predict that the touted iPod-compatibility will remain "coming real soon now!" until the company is quietly wound down."

      That happened the first time this little company went live - this is round 2. Same method, only different...rriiigggght.
    • by Albanach (527650)
      What do you mean by it didn't work so well for Rhapsody?

      The article you linked to says that after Real launched Harmony, Apple issued a software update which stopped the Harmony tracks from playing. Real then issued their own software update and the tracks have played without a problem ever since.

      Now I'm sure Apple could issue another update in the future again breaking the tracks, but from the article you posted it reads like it worked out pretty well for Real, and for the iPod users that bought tracks
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SchnauzerGuy (647948)
        Note that the article I linked to was from 2005. After a lot of back and forth, and threatened lawsuits, here is the current situation as described on Rhapsody's website [rhapsody.com]:

        The Apple iPod does not work with Rhapsody To Go. At this time Apple does not support track "rental" from Rhapsody or any other subscription music service. Purchased Rhapsody tracks also cannot be played on an Apple iPod.

        Like I said, it didn't work out so well for Rhapsody.

        • by Basehart (633304)
          Speaking of Rhapsody, I remember a conversation three years ago with a friend who thought Rhapsody's subscription model was the way to go. I, on the other hand, argued that Apple's buy-to-own model was the way to go.

          So here we are three years later.

          My friend has been paying $14.99 per month for a grand total of $539.64 and doesn't own any of the music he's been listening to, and I've spent around the same and bought approx thirty albums and lots of individual songs.

          We both started off with quite la
          • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

            by DECS (891519)
            Well according to the free market:

            - Apple sold 4 billion tracks and is maintaining sustainable profits while growing its music business rapidly in per song sales.
            - Rhapsody is stuck with the same niche of music renters and can't find new ones, just like PressPlay and Duet and all the rental losers before it.

            Rhapsody did however manage to pull MTV's urge out of WMP and the Zune software, leaving a big hole in Microsoft's trousers. This didn't seem to have much of positive impact on Rhapsody though. Real is n
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nolife (233813)
            So do you see the merits in having cable TV at home or do you buy every thing individually that you watch?

            I have Rhapsody and it works out great. My kids and I each have a portable unit, for $15/month, we each have an unlimited amount of music to listen too on any of our computers (linux as well), or on our portables. One subscriptions allows 3 authorized computers and 3 portable devices. We can also use the Rhapsody web interface on any computer and and it does not count against the authorized total.

            For
            • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

              by Basehart (633304)
              "So do you see the merits in having cable TV at home or do you buy every thing individually that you watch?"

              I see you're not going to be very helpful in my quest for campfire argument winning.

              FWIW the adults in the household don't watch any TV and haven't for years now, and I mean zip, nada, zero TV. We do have a basic service turned on to keep the cost of our cable internet down, but if we turned TV service off completely our internet would go up more than the $9 basic TV costs.

              Just to keep things
              • by nolife (233813)
                I was not thinking from a campfire talk setting ;)
                Maybe you could discuss something else. How about if McDonalds is "responsible" for contributing to the obesity problem in teens or if they as a company are simply supplying what the market demands. Same concept for SUVs and gas mileage. Here's another one but would probably take some background knowledge to maintain a decent argument. Safety devices installed on products. Are companies discouraged from "fixing" a safety issue at the risk of getting sue
                • by Basehart (633304)
                  McDonalds, and the trash their crappy products are wrapped in that their obese clients like to throw out of SUV windows when they've finished getting their daily fix, is always good camping fodder - but difficult to get hot under the collar about because it's a no-brainer. And I'm guessing the Real vs Apple thing will be a non-event as well seeing as we're both pretty deep into our respective evils.

                  The big one will be HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray, then roll over into Xbox 360 vs PS3 (no doubt it's obvious I'm in th
        • by Albanach (527650)

          Like I said, it didn't work out so well for Rhapsody.
          Sorry, I still don't get it.

          The original article is about another crowd that want to give you songs to keep that are wrapped in DRM. Rhapsody can also give you songs to keep wrapped in DRM that work on your iPod.

          Real have never claimed that Rhapsody To Go tracks can be played on anything other than a windows PC or a PlaysForSure device. I'm still not clear what exactly hasn't worked out for them?
          • Purchased Rhapsody tracks also cannot be played on an Apple iPod.

            While the rental tracks could never be played on iPods, the .wma format, DRM encumbered purchased tracks could be transfered to the iPod for a period of time, using Real's implemention of FairPlay. But as you can see from the above quoted text, the combination of Apple's legal threats and software changes made Real eventually give it up.

            Do you understand now?



            P.S. I worked with a large French electronics company back in 2004 that wa

  • It won't be Music (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EdIII (1114411) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @09:04PM (#22204054)
    I cannot see how they can put ads in place on the iPOD. The ad would have to be static, which is far less valuable these days then something that can be updated dynamically with all the invasion of privacy information they can collect.

    So the future I see is........ "Oh baby, Baby...... pfff Umm like this is Britney, buy my album and stuff for reals. Lawyers cost money. I'm serial. pfff Hit me one more time"

    Or a Paris Hilton track being interrupted by a commercial for Valtrex.

    • by CSMatt (1175471)

      Or a Paris Hilton track being interrupted by a commercial for Valtrex.
      Well at least the ad is reaching its target audience.
  • hehe (Score:1, Funny)

    by rastoboy29 (807168) *
    Wow, the inconvenience of p2p teamed with the inconvenience of DRM.  I'm sure it'll be a huge hit.
  • I mean there are advantages in terms of server load I'll give you that, but if you've licensed all the tunes then why not follow the imeem [imeem.com] model and centralize everything on a website - no special p2p software needed just a flash player and a modern browser. P2P services were percieved to have some sort of limited deniability for a while because the content and sometimes the indexes did not exist on any of the developers servers, but there's no need to that here.

    I mean downloading movies and tv shows via p2
    • by illectro (697914)
      imeem is the youtube of music that's the best way to describe it (and it does video ad photos pretty well too ;-)
  • When are these people going to learn that there is no especial significance to a file being on someone's harddrive?  I can download an mp3 every time I want to listen to it as easily as open it off my harddrive.

    Thus, there is no meaning to making sure it is "deleted" via DRM.

    Hmm, well I guess it is pretty abstract.
  • by earlymon (1116185) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @09:13PM (#22204102) Homepage Journal
    If you understand iPods at all, be prepared to wretch at the level of FUD in the article. For example:

    That's unusual, as iPods only playback unrestricted MP3s files or tracks with Apple's proprietary version of DRM, dubbed FairPlay.

    "We've had a technical breakthrough which enables us to put songs on an iPod without any interference from FairPlay," said Allan Klepfisz, Qtrax's president and chief executive.
    Let's be clear - the problem is DRM itself. The solution is to drop it.

    The problem is not how to get DRM content onto an iPod without Apple's help. The problem is not how to get content onto an Apple. The problem is not that iPods only play open MP3s and Fairplay'd tunes - Jesus, that's not true (cue the dead horse beating).

    The issue here - not in the summary - is that QTrax is P2P as well as download. And they're either scared or just stupid:

    As long as the DRM on downloads and advertising in the Qtrax application aren't too obtrusive, the music service may appeal to computer users now trolling for tracks via LimeWire and other unlicensed services, Enderle said.

    "This is a way to get the stuff for free and not take the risk of having the (recording industry) show up at your doorstep with a six-figure lawsuit," he said.
    Call it Flamebait if you will for what I'm about to say (which this isn't, BTW): if these guys aren't stupid, then my first suspicion is that they're a stalking horse for the record industry to prove that DRM is ok, and that the record company's version of what DRM is ok on an iPod isn't subject to Apple's dictates. Failing that, then they actually believe you can have your DRM and eat it, too.

    Either way, I'm disgusted by their attempt and their thinking.
    • Call it Flamebait if you will for what I'm about to say (which this isn't, BTW): if these guys aren't stupid, then my first suspicion is that they're a stalking horse for the record industry to prove that DRM is ok, and that the record company's version of what DRM is ok on an iPod isn't subject to Apple's dictates. Failing that, then they actually believe you can have your DRM and eat it, too.

      I've been trying to figure out the tech end. Someone with an iPod and iTunes care to help me out? I don't have iT
      • by earlymon (1116185)
        Yep, iTunes lets you put music on your iPod as a one-way deal - you can't pull them back off without third party software. (Whether they're popular or not, I can't say. I got one after a disk crash - only way to get my music back out - but that didn't involve anything DRM'd.)

        So far as I recall, you can only place iTunes Fairplay'd music on an iPod you _sync_ to - you can sync with an iPod (and only one) - or you can not sync, but transfer music to - and remove from - an iPod manually.

        Maybe merit in what y
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Technician (215283)
          I don't have idea what would happen with music copied in from iTunes next to music copied in from a third party app - maybe it's all good, I don't know.

          It works fine. We have put some MP3's on an iPod and backed up the entire iPod to hard disk under Linux. I guess the only thing you don't get backed up is the keys, but that iPod has never had DRM tracks, so it's a moot point.

          Pick your fav program here. Some are multi-platform.

          http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/articles/managing_your_ipod_without_itunes [freesoftwaremagazine.com]
      • by earlymon (1116185)
        PS - whatever these guys are really up to, the expression I was looking for to describe them was, "too clever by half."
  • That's unusual, as iPods only playback unrestricted MP3s files or tracks with Apple's proprietary version of DRM, dubbed FairPlay

    Hard to take an article seriously when it gets the basic facts wrong. I've got about seven gigs of unprotected AAC files on my iPhone. They "playback" fine.

    -Peter
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Methinks they're using "MP3" in the common usage sense of "a music file that plays on a computer or portable player" (i.e. the same way people used to use "Xerox these pages" even when they were using a non-Xerox photocopier).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The fact that anybody takes Rob Enderle seriously anymore.

    I thought the whole SCO affair had made his reputation less than great?
  • The industry tried a DRM'd P2P service a few years ago with PeerImpact. As far as I can tell the only difference is that Qtrax is ad-supported.
  • by Len (89493) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @09:22PM (#22204160)

    The Register has an article about Qtrax [theregister.co.uk]. They're pretty skeptical about it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iainl (136759)
      Personally, I wouldn't put any weight behind what Andrew Orlowski says. But it turns out he was right to be sceptical in this instance - the system has 'mysteriously' failed to launch as planned today, nobody wants to talk to the press, and the majors are denying they ever signed such deals.
  • Startup? (Score:5, Funny)

    by 8tim8 (623968) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @09:28PM (#22204202) Journal
    QTrax, a 5-year-old startup

    Um, they've been around for five years, I don't think they're exactly a startup anymore. More like a regular company that's trying to attract some VC money and subscribers by trying to look all shiny and new.

    It's kind of like your mom wearing low-riders and a tube top--at some point this sort of thing just needs to stop.
  • ...DVD Jon to the white courtesy phone.

    How long before something this stupid gets cracked? Let's start a pool on it. I'm in for two weeks and three days after the launch date. Everyone - pick a day.

  • by MrCopilot (871878) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @09:57PM (#22204358) Homepage Journal
    From the Reg

    The company has pinched what it could from open source land. The fat client is a custom version of Firefox, with a fork of the Songbird music player layered on top. Normally software developers could expect a decent license fee from a $30m start-up for use of their work - but in the new Tim 2.0'Reilly "freetard" model, the Firefox and Songbird developers don't get a cent for their labour - merely the satisfaction that they're "building a platform".
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/27/midem_qtrax_launch/ [theregister.co.uk]
    • by AvitarX (172628)
      Does it really make sense to refer to Fire-fox as a "freetard" model with the amount of money that comes in from its use?

      the so called freetard model was able to get the publicity and support to make Fire-fox incredibly successful project that would probably of flopped as a closed source product and that sentence really makes the rest of the work by that author very suspect.
    • by nacturation (646836) <nacturation AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday January 27, 2008 @10:44PM (#22204592) Journal
      I'd be irked too. First off, The Register is suggesting that using code from an open source project is "pinching". Pinching usually refers to theft, and there is no theft going on here. There's also no infringement, because the developers who worked on these projects have willingly licensed their code for anyone to use for free, regardless of whether or not the code is being used to make money.

      How rude of The Register to lambaste the company for building software using code that others are handing out under licenses that say "don't pay us a cent".
       
    • by Catharsis (246331) on Monday January 28, 2008 @03:07AM (#22205768) Homepage
      Actually, it's a licensed fork. Songbird has licensed our technology to Qtrax and we provide support to them. It works well for everyone and we're delighted to see some little birds leave the nest.

      Songbird as a platform is making leaps and strides right now. If you're a Mozila-developin' fan of the project, we're in the middle of a Top 40 extensions contest to port cool extensions from Firefox. Come by #songbird on irc.mozilla.org or check us out at http://songbirdnest.com/top40 [songbirdnest.com] . Win cool schwag! Meet great people! Hack on something fun!

      As a daily-use media player we're still not quite there yet. We are, after all, only at version 0.4. Still, many people are discovering all the cool things that having an extensible framework in your media player enables you to do.

      Squawks,
      -pvh
      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by dangitman (862676)

        Win cool schwag! Meet great people! Hack on something fun!

        Uggh. Are you Open Sourcing pathetic market-droid speak, too? What's next, Songbird X-Treme edition?

      • by hweimer (709734)
        Actually, it's a licensed fork. Songbird has licensed our technology to Qtrax and we provide support to them. It works well for everyone and we're delighted to see some little birds leave the nest.

        Um, how does this work concerning the parts of Songbird PotI doesn't hold the copyright for (i.e., Firefox & VLC)?
  • Deals not done (Score:2, Informative)

    by Rand1956 (928631)
    Qtrax touted in a press release Sunday morning that it was the first Internet file-swapping service to be "fully embraced by the music industry," and boasted it would carry up to 30 million tracks from "all the major labels." New York-based Warner Music undermined that claim, declaring in a statement that it "has not authorized the use of our content on Qtrax's recently announced service." Universal Music Group and EMI Group PLC later confirmed they did not have licensing deals in place with Qtrax,
  • by kcbanner (929309) * on Sunday January 27, 2008 @10:29PM (#22204520) Homepage Journal
    I know! Let's sell mp3s without any DRM, so people can play them on *any* player, and support those with ads. Wait, what? Who are you guys? Why are you...*silenced gunfire*.
  • No DRM is the key! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by filbranden (1168407)

    When will companies realise that the answer is to stop shipping DRM? Amazon and others are doing it now with great success. Even iTunes Plus does it. Companies that base their business on DRM are condemned to a slow but certain death.

    • DOA. Anything laden with DRM is bound to fail, especially when amazon is considering worldwide release of MP3.
      Its another company that burns money and dies unheralded.

      Forced to listen to ads, plus DRM-laden? My God, what were the promoters thinking??
      • Forced to listen to ads, plus DRM-laden? My God, what were the promoters thinking??

        They were thinking "without DRM, how do we force them to listen to the ads?"

        (Yes, it's still stupid.)

    • by cybereal (621599)
      DRM is fine for a subscription service. This is essentially the same idea, but instead of paying a monthly fee, you are seeing ads and presumably generating revenue stream for the company serving you the songs.

      The tradeoff is that you have more restrictions on how you can use the music you download.

      DRM itself, technologically is severely flawed. The utility of it is not flawed at all, it is in fact, a very good idea in the benefit of the copyright owners. Unfortunately, no matter how good that idea is, n
  • Step 1: Make or copy a method of uploading your own music onto an Ipod without using iTunes.
    Step 2: Announce your product to the world. Sign deals with record companies. Sell the product.
    Step 3: Wait for Apple to break it in the next iPod firmware.
    Step 4: Sue apple
    Step 5: ?
    Step 6: Profit

    Alternate Business Plan:
    Create a 'secure' format and convince all the record companies that it's secure. Then simply convert the secure music into MP3 and dump it in the user's iTunes Music directory.
  • Or not? [news.com.au]

    That article states that Warner, EMI and Universal media group have all denied signing any sort of agreement with the qtrax people. The author attempted to contact Sony on the issue but was unsuccessful.
    • I saw a similar article on BBC News this morning. This company has advertised that it has signed agreements with all four major record labels, yet all four are denying this fact. Warner has said that they have been in talks, but that is in no way a signed agreement. If they are going to exaggerate their record company backings, then why should we believe them when they say they are iPod compatible. It doesn't make any sense. The iPod only supports Apple's FairPlay DRM, yet they say their tracks all use
  • This sounds a lot like We7 [we7.com], only with faff about DRM.

    We7 [we7.com] do advertising supported downloads of MP3s, so you can put them on whatever device you want, including your iPod. A month after you downloaded the ad version, you can go back and re-download without adverts. They've got quite a lot of major labels on board, so there's a fairly decent choice. With the option of We7, why would you bother with something similar that still has DRM crap on it?

  • Looks like vapor to me. From an update to the article:

    Amanda Collins, director of communications for Warner Music Group, said, "Warner Music Group has not authorized the use of our content on Qtrax's recently announced service." Silicon Alley Insider says no deals have been struck, and the LA Times agrees that deals have not been struck with UMG, EMI, and Warner (it describes the state of the Sony/BMG deal as "unclear").

    QTrax does not appear to have other major label deals the company's top executive,

One possible reason that things aren't going according to plan is that there never was a plan in the first place.

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