Popular peer-to-peer, file-sharing service iMesh (search) introduced new software Tuesday that allows users to legally share and buy music online.
The service offers access to 17 million music files. About 15 million will be available for free. Another 2 million protected releases will be sold for 99 cents per song, with the company paying record labels a portion of the revenue from each downloaded or shared song.
The new service is being offered free for a 30-60 day introductory period, and will cost $6.95 a month after that.
"This takes the peer-to-peer experience, turns it on its ear and it becomes a pay service," said Bob Summer (search), executive chairman of iMesh.
The move comes after New York-based iMesh paid $4.1 million to the recording industry in July 2004 to settle a copyright infringement lawsuit. The firm also agreed to block users from trading unauthorized copies of songs.
For years, peer-to-peer networks have made it simple to illegally share music online. Music labels claim illegal downloads have cut into sales, while analysts say high CD prices and musical quality also share part of the blame.
Users of iMesh can now legally access songs through the Gnutella network (search), where musicians and others post music for free sharing. In addition, songs can be bought from the four major music conglomerates.
Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, said iMesh is another example of the growing online marketplace that respects the rights of musicians, songwriters, record labels and others.
"It is a significant moment in the transformation of the peer-to-peer model," he said.