Kazaa to insert music fees into phone bills

To charge users via their phone bills, Kazaa asked users for their Social Security numbers, at least in the beta version. This is bound to spook some.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
2 min read

The new Kazaa appears to be mostly a run-of-the-mill subscription music service, but it does add a few new twists. The one that stands out right from the sign-up phase is that subscribers can either pay by credit card or via their telephone company.


"Brilliant Digital Entertainment Inc. (BDE) and Kazaa are not affiliated with your local telephone company," Kazaa writes in the company's terms of service, "However, for your convenience, BDE's charges will appear on your local telephone bill."

Music industry insiders have long talked about creating subscription services in partnership with Internet service providers, who could tuck monthly charges into a phone bill. The thinking is that consumers would be less likely to feel the pinch of by monthly fees if they were mixed in with all the other fees found in typical phone bill.

These ISP-music stores have yet to emerge in any significant way, but Kazaa's subscription service, announced Monday, appears to borrow this idea in an attempt to make the $20 monthly charges a little more palatable.

One of the main problems I saw this weekend when I tried out Kazaa's new service was that in order to post the charges to my phone bill, the company asked me to submit my Social Security number. That is bound to spook plenty of people.

Ring-tone companies have charged customers this way for a while, but to the best of my knowledge, not another major music service offers a similar payment option.

After becoming one of the world's most popular file-sharing programs, Kazaa was nearly sued out of existence several years ago. The new iteration is much more legal, if not much more routine.

The songs are protected by digital rights management, which is the norm for most subscription services. The service supports PCs only, not Mac or Linux, which means it is not compatible with iPods. Of course, like most subscription services, when a person stops paying, they lose their songs.

Brilliant Digital Entertainment, Kazaa's parent company, appears to be betting that Kazaa's brand will give it an advantage in a U.S. market, which has seen a score of music subscription services come and go. None of them have found a significant audience.