Nothing is Free
But I suspect that amidst the extraordinary publicity the news has generated, we might miss an important distinction that unlocks some questions that are rather more interesting than whether we can get free Razorlight tracks.
There's a distinction between monetising sites though innovative adverstising models - and thereby potentially offering free music - and embracing the potential that network technologies offer for decentralised music distribution. The contraction of the gap between production and consumption promises to disrupt the linear industry model that characterise people as consumers of music more than producers of culture. Mix-tapes, Minidiscs, Cd-rs, radio- and mp3-blogs, Limewire, Soulseek - these are means of communicating with others in ways different to industry-led channels.
I'd like to see whether this move is accompanied by a shift in Universal's attitude to Digital Rights Management, to file-sharing networks, and to copyright more broadly.
I Googled (conducted a Google search?!) and found SpiralFrog's del.icio.us page. Oddly, it only has two links at the moment - one to Universal, the other to the American Federation of Musician's stance on online music piracy. Combined with stories like this, I wonder whether anything really significant is happening at all.
DownhillBattle always have more information about this area than I could give you. (They're the same people responsible for the excellent Democracy internet TV player.)