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Zookz: Unlimited downloads, one price

How can Zookz get away with offering unlimited music and movie downloads for a single monthly fee? Simple--it's based in Antigua.

Hear that popping sound? It's the sound of executives in the music and movie industries taking an extra dose of heart medicine. Wednesday, a new site called Zookz began public beta-testing a service that will let users download an unlimited number of MP3 music files for a single monthly fee of $9.95. Users can also download an unlimited number of MP4 movies for the same price, or both music and movies for $17.95 per month. Those are unprotected, DRM-free downloads that can be transferred to any device or shared an unlimited number of times.

Of course there are a few catches. Currently, the site only has about 50,000 tracks--a paltry selection compared with iTunes, Amazon MP3, and other services, although the company promises to add 5,000 tracks per week. In its current early beta state, there's no browsing among titles--you have to search, which requires you to know exactly what you want, and then hope it's in the (currently tiny) Zookz database. (I didn't test it for movies, as the focus of this blog--and my main personal interest--is music, but the selection's even smaller there: only 1,500 titles.)

How can Zookz possibly get away with this when the only other subscription music-download service I know of, eMusic, charges more for a limited number of monthly downloads? Simple. According to its FAQ, Zookz is based in the Caribbean nation of Antigua, and isn't subject to U.S. jurisdiction, including copyright law. The company claims it's operating in line with a 2007 World Trade Organization agreement between Antigua and the U.S., a claim I have absolutely no qualifications to evaluate one way or the other.

If you're willing to trust Zookz with your credit card information, you can fill your hard drive and all your portable music players with music for a very, very low price. Get it while it lasts....

Yes, it's that simple. (For the record, I already own this album on vinyl, but have been too lazy to rip it.)

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