Universal gives in, offers free music downloads

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That seems to be the approach that Universal is taking towards the rampant music piracy that the RIAA has been futilely battling for the past few years, as they've recently decided to start offering music for download free of cost. Being compensated only through advertisements, Universal plans to offer their catalogue online through a new service called Spiralfrog. There aren't too many details available, so what format the songs will be in, if they'll have any intrusive digital rights management (DRM), or if there will be any sort of restriction on how many times or for how long the songs can be used has yet to be announced. However, with the songs being a free download and all, there don't seem to be as many reasons for the intrusive DRM that keeps songs bought from iTunes from working on a Rio. It also isn't known if Universal is planning on offering its entire catalogue for download or just select artists. In any case, once the service begins it should be a huge blow to established music stores such as iTunes, eMusic, and Urge, who have prices that just can't compete with free. We'll keep you updated as this service is unveiled.