The Sounds Of Silence

It's hard to imagine what's going on behind the scenes at peer-to-peer download site Qtrax, but it can't be good. Last week the media was quick to echo Qtrax's claim of a massive catalogue of free downloadable music. But by Monday night several record labels including Sony BMG, Warner, EMI Music, and Universal Music were reportedly hitting the pause button. Evidently these deals had either not been finalized, had expired, or had not been signed. The key stumbling block was the new ad-based (free) model that Qtrax is proposing. Where does the initiative go from here?

All the awkward PR can't help Qtrax with the media, and it'll also be an uphill battle to regain the trust of those record companies after jumping the gun. (But, seriously, how does this happen?) Arguably it hasn't hurt the image of the company within the downloading community since they're still eager to "buy" into the idea, and there are some claims that the Qtrax tracks will even be playable on an Apple's music players. Interestingly, Qtrax's Web site still proclaims "free and legal music downloads," so it's clearly pushing ahead beyond its testing phase. Stay, um, tuned.

In other digital music news, U2's long-time manager Paul McGuinness had some sharp words for ISPs during the International Managers Summit at the MIDEM music conference and how they need to better enforce illegal downloading. He went as far as demanding "disconnection" methods when necessary with certain sites. More here. (I'm guessing McGuinness is mainly fighting for the smaller bands since U2 clearly doesn't need the money. I know, I know -- it's the principle, not the cash.)

Finally, of note today, lawmakers including New York's Attorney General Andrew Cuomo introduced legislation called Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (E-Stop) that aims to prevent convicted sex offenders from visiting places like MySpace or Facebook. The bill, if passed, would require convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and instant message screen names for a database shared with the participating social networking sites. They could then be watched or deleted, as necessary. It also limits certain online communication with minors. Changing e-mail or screen names without notifying authorities within a set number of days would be considered a felony.

While the suggestion of any revolutionary idea to better protect children on the Internet should be considered noble, in the amorphous and organic world of the Web it's hard to know how well this law could be enforced. I had a conversation with officials in the NY AG's office last week and they agreed there must be increased monitoring of the computers of registered sex offenders by better coordinating with parole officers to make it work. No minor task. As for just how many kids are truly at risk on social networking sites -- that's a debate for another day.

(Oh, and my teleportation talk has been teleported to tomorrow. Getting the jump on "Jumper.")