Universal unveils free downloads on ad-supported

Universal Music, home to artists such as U2, The Killers and Audioslave, will make its catalog of recordings and music videos available for free on an ad-supported Web site launching later this year, according to an Associated Press report.

The report said the two-year deal called for New York-based SpiralFrog.com to split advertising revenue with the recording company, said Lance Ford, chief marketing and sales officer for SpiralFrog.

Users could download an unlimited number of songs or music videos if they registered at the site, the report said.

The tracks could not be burned to a CD, but users would be able to transfer music to portable media players equipped with Microsoft Windows digital rights management software, Ford said.

However, the service would not work with Apple's Macintosh computers or its market-leading iPod music players, the report said.

Offering music and video for free on ad-supported Web sites is not new, but such services have generally been restricted to streaming, in which music and video files are not stored on a user's computer, limiting playback to when there is an Internet connection.

SpiralFrog will offer downloads, permitting playback offline and on portable devices.

SpiralFrog would require users to return to the site and renew registration at least once a month or the tracks would cease to play, the report said.

Ford declined to disclose the value of the deal but said it included advance payments to Universal Music.