Qtrax signs historic music deal

Just hours ago, music download service Qtrax claimed it has brokered an historic deal that, for the first time, would deliver an unlimited supply of free songs to music fans.

But hopes, it seems, have already been dashed as the three of the big four studios allegedly involved have come forward and denied signing any such deal.

Qtrax, which offers a catalogue of 25 million songs to download for free, said today that its service will be endorsed by the biggest powers in the music industry - EMI, Sony BMG, Universal Music and Warner Music.

The service was unveiled at the global music industry's largest annual event, MIDEM, in Cannes.

Qtrax chief executive, Allan Klepfisz, said customers expected to be able to get music for free, but didn't want to use illegal sites. "It's been a long trek to this point for peer-to-peer to find its place in a legal world."

He then went on to say that the service would deliver up to 30 million free and legal music tracks for download.

In return for access to the music, users will have to put up with some advertising and Qtrax claimed that Ford, Microsoft and McDonald's have all signed up to advertise.

The files will still contain DRM (Digital Rights Management) software, which means that record companies will be able to keep track of how often their tracks are played and downloaded, and they will be paid in proportion to how popular their music is.

Qtrax says that record labels will also get a cut of the advertising revenue.

Qtrax added there is also plans for an iPod solution as the service is currently not compatible with the Apple device.

But now an Australian news channel is reporting that no such service is on the way and in fact, three of the four record company backers are denying their involvement.

Warner Music has issued a statement denying that it authorised any of its content for use on the Qtrax network. This is despite Qtrax's Klepfisz's statement to Associated Press that Warner was to sign a deal "shortly".

EMI and Universal also denied a licensing deal with Qtrax despite being in discussions with the company.

Sony is not commenting at this stage.

The Qtrax client was expected to launch at 12am EST today but News Com Australia says that the download appears to have been delayed.