Wednesday, February 25, 2009

U2 Album Discography Available for Free Via Myspace

Recently there has been a controversy over how U2's latest album 'No Line On The Horizon' (currently due for release on the 3rd of March 2008) had leaked to the internet. The leak of major music albums is now a news event and can arguably help drive fans to their computer in search of a free download.

This album is now available for pre-order and at the time of writing the only song streaming on their Myspace social networking music profile is a one minute snippet of their new single 'Get On Your Boots'.

The whole album is currently available online from the usual illicit channels such as peer to peer networks, torrents and on blogs via temporary file hosts.

It is also currently available along with 20 other full albums (including remastered versions) as individual 96 kilobits per second (kps) mp3s for free and easy download from u2's Myspace page (, but not by directly accessing it via

All you have to is get the full Myspace URL of the profile in question and use a certain online download tool which will work with most audio, video, images and style sheets etc that are used on a web page.

This site can be found easily on search engines and is well known online. The site has been online since at least late 2007 according to the 'Wayback Machine' site snapshot record on

It's arguable that these 96 kbps files are of relatively low sound quality, but it's the same bit rate as the mp3s streaming on Myspace (much higher quality than the streaming of most online radio stations). To put this is context up until mid-2007 the best sound quality files available to buy on iTunes were only 128kps. The best feature of this tool is that usually if there are around 20 files or under it will display the original mp3 files that were uploaded as 'High Quality' (anything up to the maximum and best quality 320 kps) as well as the 'Standard Quality' mp3s which Myspace converts from the original if they are above 96kps. To put this in context 64 kbps per second is FM radio quality sound and 128 Kbps is CD Quality Audio

The following U2 albums are available amongst other content at time of writing:

No Line On The Horizon
Under A Blood Red Sky (eAlbum Remastered)
War (Remastered)
Boy (Remastered)
War (Deluxe eAlbum - Remastered)
October (Deluxe eAlbum - Remastered)
Boy (Deluxe eAlbum - Remastered)
The Joshua Tree (Remastered)
The Joshua Tree (Deluxe Edition)
U218 Singles
How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
The Best Of (1990-2000)
All That You Can't Leave Behind
The Best Of (1980 - 1990)
Achtung Baby
The Joshua Tree
The Unforgettable Fire
Rattle And Hum

There are 404 MP3s listed here in total at time of writing– the whole lot downloadable with a couple of clicks using Firefox plug-ins like DownThemAll.

Why are all these albums uploaded to Myspace if they are only currently streaming one song clip only? Presumably because some or all of these tracks have been or are going to be available for streaming on this page at some point in time. Usually artists can only upload a maximum of 6 songs but here special permission has been given.

The site in question does not capture Myspace streams – Firefox browser plug-ins like Download Helper can do that for you but it will only work for individual songs.

The Alexa traffic ranking for the site of this tool places it in the top 15,000 sites on the net, making it arguably one of the most popular sites on the net worldwide.

The Hitwise UK statistics place it in the top 5000 most visited websites for UK Internet users for Feb 2009, having climbed just over 400 places since the previous month.

The long-awaited album Chinese Democracy album by Guns N' Roses' was made available via this method on November 20, 2008 ahead of the release date of the 23rd the same month.

The seeming failure of Myspace to plug this leak in their technology and also to take any (reported) action against this tool suggest a reluctance of News Corporation to play 'whack a mole' (the idea that if they take out one piracy technology, another similar one will pop up right away).

Moreover, the copyright in most of the music material on Myspace is not held by News Corporation: the Corporation only owns one label (MySpace Records, an independent record label started in 2005 to sign musicians who appear on MySpace and is a joint-venture between MySpace and Interscope Records).

It is arguable that Myspace by continuing to 'allow' people to download content such as music 'by the back-door' is cutting their significant bandwidth bill as one of the most popular sites on the internet (some songs are streamed tens of thousands of times daily) and is a reason for people to use Myspace for free downloading as well as music streaming.

I contacted the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and U2's label for comment. Paul Gathercole, the Anti-Piracy Director for Universal Music International (U2's label) was not aware of this technology (though I did not mention it by name). The IFPI have not responded.

The moral of the story may be that one must be aware that there are risks in handing the custodianship of one's intellectual property to a third party.

Postscript: 837 mp3s are available from the official Bob Marley myspace (another discography it seems).

This an unfinished, edited version of an article commissioned (and then decommissioned 24 hours later) by the Guardian UK national newspaper (after the Technology Editor found I had previously contacted Universal Music offering them consultancy work on online intellectual property protection - not relating to this specific issue) as my email requesting comment from the record label on this issue was redirected to the person I had contacted previously. Certain details in the original article have been edited out.