New music service Zaptunes claims legal Beatles downloads, EMI responds

08.31.10 7 years ago

For one hot minute, the collective internet cocked an eyebrow at a claim from Zaptunes, a new music service, and it’s claim this week to offer “100% legal” downloads of mp3s for a mere $25 per month for up to 2,500 downloads. And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s running a promotion now which enables users to try out the site for free. And that includes the free and legal downloads of… The Beatles? Led Zeppelin?

Those two acts have infamously shot down deals to joining popular retail sites like iTunes and tethered music services like Rhapsody over licensing disputes. So it seemed odd that EMI/Apple, for instance, would strike a deal with an unknown upstart for a digital introduction to the Fab Four.

Which then leads us to the fine print: under the Terms of Use, Zaptunes specifies does not provide any downloads from its servers. just enables its members to find free or paid music available on the Internet. The Artists/Tracks displayed on the home page and other parts of the website are for promotional purposes only and may not be available for free or paid download. has a database of websites that offer free and legal music downloads. Whenever a registered members looks for a song, ZapTunes searches for that song in the database, and if it finds a website offering a legal download of that song, it is displayed it to the user. If not, then ZapTunes looks for that song on Amazon, iTunes and various other paid to download websites, and displays the user their options.

In other words, users unwise enough to invest $25/mo. in this service would essentially be paying Zaptunes to run a fancy Google query for free mp3s floating around the internet or, perhaps more accurately, send a quick crawl through Last. fm, only to then shoot users to pre-existing digital retailers that everybody already knows doesn’t sell the Beatles anyway.

According to HypeBot, Zaptunes claims to have a deal in place with “Sony Music” — interestingly, they didn’t specify Sony/ATV publishing, co-owned by the Michael Jackson family trust — which controls part of the Lennon/McCartney Beatles catalog. But then a rep said he couldn’t go into further detail of the licensing agreement.

And to all this, EMI/Apple — who owns the Beatles’ recordings — told HitFix, “No comment on speculation.” To which, I’m like, yeah, no kidding.

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