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Universal Music Pacts with Qtrax

Universal Music Group has finally struck a deal with online music service Qtrax to enable music from Universal artists to be downloaded for free via the ad-supported service. In a joint statement, Qtrax and Universal Music Group said artists and writers will be compensated for the use of their content through a share of advertising revenue, although financial details of the arrangement were not disclosed. Users will also be able to purchase “music-related items” from the Qtrax site.

Qtrax launched—and fizzled—back in January when it threw open its doors, claiming to offer free, downloadable tracks from all the major music labels in an ad-supported format. Only, it turned out, Qtrax hadn’t actually finalized deals with many of the major labels: Warner Music Group, EMI, and Universal all quickly let it be known the did not have signed deals with Qtrax, and any unauthorized distribution of their content would be piracy.

Qtrax started off life as a Gnutella client; when it decided to try to become a “legit” peer-to-peer network, Universal was the first music label to sign on. The service is basically set up to operate as a front-end fo the Gnutella file-sharing network, with Qtrax claiming to keep track of all the downloads and compensate artists and publishers accordingly. Music downloaded from the service will be playable in the Qtrax player application, which has been developed for Windows XP and Vista; the company says a Mac player is in development. The company says it will be enabling downloads “shortly.”