UK ISP Virgin Media has teamed up with Universal Music Group for its long-awaited unlimited music service, which has been announced today but won’t launch until later in the year. However, alongside it, Virgin is committing itself to “temporary” suspension of internet access for persistent file-sharers using its network.Users will be able to stream AND download as many music tracks and albums as they want from UMG’s entire catalogue, paying a monthly subscription fee. The fee itself hasn’t been announced. The announcement says “Downloaded music will be theirs to keep permanently” in MP3 format, although it’s unclear whether that means a certain number of tracks can be kept every month, or everything someone’s downloaded.There will also be an “entry level” service, presumably cheaper, which won’t be unlimited. Virgin Media says it’s negotiating with other major and independent music labels and publishers in the UK to ensure it can offer a full catalogue at launch.It’s a big carrot, but is there a stick? Possibly: check the wording in the press release:”In parallel, the two companies will be working together to protect Universal Music’s intellectual property and drive a material reduction in the unauthorised distribution of its repertoire across Virgin Media’s network. This will involve implementing a range of different strategies to educate file sharers about online piracy and to raise awareness of legal alternatives. They include, as a last resort for persistent offenders, a temporary suspension of internet access. No customers will be permanently disconnected and the process will not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media.”Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett has talked up the new service: “In terms of both convenience and value, our new music service will be superior to anything that’s available online today and provides a fair deal for both consumers and artists. There is no better example of Virgin Media’s commitment to harnessing digital technology to give customers what they want, when they want and how they want.”Meanwhile, UMG chairman and chief executive Lucian Grainge is equally buoyant: “Britain has a world-class reputation for artists and music. Now British consumers will have access to a world-class digital music service. I believe this puts all of us at the forefront of a new era.”The UK minister for
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