Qtrax Begins Its Global Rollout: Free, Legal Music Sharing

Qtrax - the legal, ad-supported free music download site - will begin its worldwide launch in October, starting with the Asia-Pacific region.

For starters, it will operate in China (including Hong Kong), Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. The official date is Oct. 29, a Thursday. By year's end, it will officially launch in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, though it already has been available as a 1.0 "preview" download in the U.S.

It appears to be available only for Windows users who have Windows Media Player 11, Microsoft .Net 2.0 and DRM security update.

Qtrax was announced last year and has deals with all the major music companies - EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, TVT Records and Universal Music Group, among others. After downloading the software, users can play any of the songs in the catalog that they want and play those songs as often as they want, but only within the Qtrax client. That's why they have to be used within Windows Media Player - they use Microsoft's digital rights management technology.

Qtrax got the OK from the companies because it's supported by advertising, and is sharing revenue, naturally, with the "artists and rights holders" (i.e., the music labels). The important part is that it's legal, and users can play the songs as often as they want through Qtrax without fear of the RIAA. The first time you download a song from the service, there's a lag of a few seconds for "authentication," but once it's downloaded, users should be able to play songs at will, without delay.

Users will be able to share music, though how, exactly, that will work is a bit unclear. According to the website, you can create a playlist of tracks and then e-mail that playlist to your friends.

Asia is the first target for the global rollout, company officials said, because of the intense Internet use there. Qtrax President and CEO Allan Klepfisz said Internet users grew by 474.9 percent between 2000 and 2008 (280.7 percent in the rest of the world) and 83.7 percent of users in China download music (in the U.S., that figure is 40 percent).  Qtrax is based in New York City and is a subsidiary of Brilliant Technologies Corporation, a publicly traded technology holding company.