ISP Virgin Media will begin offering a monthly subscription service that gives UK broadband customers the ability both stream and download unlimited tracks from Universal Music's catalog . A lower priced tier will offer streaming and a more limited number of downloads.
Downloaded music is portable and will be the users to keep on any MP3 compatible device. Virgin is also negotiating with other major and independent labels and publishers and anticipates a more complete catalog when the service is launches later this year.
But this juicy carrot comes with a fairly ugly stick. The two companies will also be "aworking together to protect Universal Music's intellectual property and drive a material reduction in the unauthorized distribution of its repertoire". This will involve implementing a range of strategies to "educate file sharers about online piracy" and "raise awareness of legal alternatives".
As a last resort" persistent offenders while get a temporary suspension of net access. But Virgin says no one will be permanently disconnected and no monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media will take place.
Not coincidentally, the announcement comes just a day before the much anticipated Digital Britain Report which is expected to contain new measures that force ISPs to take tougher actions against illegal file sharers.
So it appears that both Virgin, who like other ISP's has been reluctant to shut off offenders and the labels who had been pushing for tougher enforcement. Music lovers could come out as winners too, but we won't know for sure until we see pricing and read the fine print.