Web-Based MP3 'Locker' Open for Business

The founder of the original MP3.com Web site for downloading music has launched MP3Tunes.com, a service that lets computer users store their music files on the Internet and retrieve from pretty much anywhere.

Users can synch up their files and playlists to multiple computers, personal digital assistants and, eventually, mobile phones and other devices, said Michael Robertson, chief executive of San Diego-based MP3tunes. It's also a way for music lovers to safeguard their musical collections, in case their computers crash.

"For iTunes [Music Store] users, for example, ... if your computer gets broken or stolen, you can't download that music again," Robertson said.

The MP3Tunes Locker costs $39.95 a year and includes unlimited storage and bandwidth. A free version lets users to upload content and stream it to other computers but does not allow for downloading and offline play.

The venture is Robertson's second attempt at bringing to market a digital "music locker" service. In 1999, he bought hundreds of thousands of CDs and made them accessible through MP3.com to people who already owned that CD.

But recording companies sued, and MP3.com ultimately went to the parent of Universal Music. (More recently, CNET Networks Inc. acquired the domain name.)

The Recording Industry Association of America declined to comment Wednesday on the new venture.

Exploiting the MP3Tunes Locker service for piracy might prove cumbersome. Any audio tracks wrapped in copy protection schemes will retain their playback restrictions, and the company says it will try to flag accounts shared by multiple users.