SpiralFrog.com, an ad-supported Web site that allows visitors to download music and videos free of charge, has launched today in the U.S. and Canada after months of "beta" testing. The music service, which has arranged to pay record companies a cut of its advertising revenue, aims to lure music fans who normally flock to online file-swapping networks to share and download music for free. "We believe it will be a very powerful alternative to the pirate sites," said Joe Mohen, chairman and founder of New York-based SpiralFrog Inc. "With SpiralFrog you know what you're getting ... there's no threat of viruses, adware or spyware."
To deter users from posting copies of songs and videos they get from SpiralFrog, the service requires that users register and log on to the site at least once a month. Otherwise, the content locks up and can't be played. The Web site's registration screen queries users on demographic filters such as their age, gender and ZIP code. The information is used to determine what kind of ads the users see when they are on the site. Currently the site has roughly 800,000 tracks and 3,500 music videos for download, primarily from Universal Music Group, but hopes to have more than 2 million tracks in the coming months. Though free, the audio and video files on SpiralFrog carry copy protections like those found on tracks available for sale at Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store and elsewhere. Downloads cannot be burned to a CD, but they can be transferred to dozens of digital music players. The content, however, is not compatible with Apple's Macintosh computers or its market-leading iPod.