Wow, was poking around Slashdot when I came across this one. It seems that is bringing back its service (you know, the one they got repeatedly sued over). However, according to this New York Times article, things are going to be a bit different this time around.

A quick recap: The idea of the service was to let you listen to music from CD's you'd previously bought via an online service. Since the music came from online, you weren't required to have the CD with you, so long as you owned it. Sounds like a cool idea; listen to your CD's at work without having to lug them to and from.

Now, however, it's gotten... complicated. You'll recall that all the major record labels sued over this, because they were broadcasting music that they had no legal right to broadcast. Never mind that they were broadcasting it to people who had the legal right to listen to it. The changes to the service (summarized below) are the result of settling those lawsuits.

First off, the service costs $49 a year. That's right, you pay $49 a year for the privilege of listening to music from CD's that you've already paid for. There's a "lite" version of the service that lets you listen to up to 25 CD's with no annual fee, but it will include both visual and audio advertisements.

But wait, it gets better! To guard against you borrowing your friend's CD collection long enough to claim it as your own to, you will apparently be required to insert some CD's from your collection at "certain intervals" to prove that you actually own them.

On top of everything else, Big Brother will be looking over your shoulder. To help defray the costs of the licensing fees to the record labels, will compile information about its users' musical tastes, and sell that information.

What's the upshot of all this? You pay $49 a year to listen to music you've already paid for without carrying around the CD's, and to avoid the risk of being unable to listen to some or all of that music, you have to... carry around all the CD's. Plus you get the added bonus of being spied on.

This strikes me as the MP3 version of the American Express card, where they charge you $55 a year for the privilege of borrowing money that you have to pay back at the end of the month anyhow.

I did find one advantage to the service, however; check this out: users will not be able to listen to music from bands whose music is distributed by independent labels with which has not negotiated licenses. At least for now, that will include the Back Street Boys and 'N Sync, whose label, Zomba Records, is pursuing its own copyright infringement lawsuit against

The inability to play Backstreet Boys or 'N Sync appears to be the service's best feature at this point.

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