Barely Legal: 5 Sites for Fun Downloads


One day, we will tell our grandchildren that when we were their age, music was free, at least for a little while.

Now it is time to face facts: The decade of illegal downloading is over. The final blow to the industry was the taking of The Pirate Bay.

For those who don't know, The Pirate Bay was arguably more successful and infamous now than Napster was years ago (Stock Quote: NAPS). The Swedish-based Web site boasts having 22 million users and more than a few record executive-issued lawsuits.

So the pirates are making a change: In August, Swedish gaming company Global Gaming Factory X purchased The Pirate Bay. They are reportedly intent on transforming the site into a legal pay-to-play platform with a $20 per month user fee.

Record executives may be busting out champagne, but fans are eulogizing the file-sharing site and holding vigils via Twitter.

Where You Can Still Get Good Downloads for Less

Before you debate between purchasing this fall's new Pearl Jam record and something like paying down your credit card debt, check out these cheap, legal alternatives for downloading good stuff the right way:

1. Jamendo
This Web site takes advantage of a Creative Commons license to offer a virtually unlimited supply of music. It’s the perfect place to discover new bands and download entire albums. However, if you’re looking for big-name acts, you might be better off with Spotify, next.

2. Spotify
Like The Pirate Bay, this program comes from techies in Sweden. But the similarities stop there. Spotify doesn’t let users download songs. Instead, users stream an endless amount of popular music for free. Some may quip that playing music is second to actually owning it. However, Spotify has partnered with Apple to create an app for the iPhone that allows users to listen to music on the go (Stock Quote: AAPL). The app is free right now, though there is talk of a small monthly fee down the road.

3. Amie Street
When you click on a song here, you may be downloading the next big thing. Amie Street is loaded with undiscovered talent and has a unique pricing model. Each song is free when first uploaded to the network. Then, as the song becomes more popular, it increases in price, maxing out at 98 cents. It’s cheaper than iTunes and more fun.

4. Napster
No joke. Napster is now a role model for legitimate peer-to-peer networks. The company recently announced a new plan where users pay $5 a month to download five songs and listen to millions more. This formula may be the future for The Pirate Bay.

5. Hulu
Web sites that let you legally download movies and TV shows for free are rare now, but will likely become more common soon. In the meantime, Hulu is by far the best option to watch your favorite shows and blockbusters in good quality. Unfortunately, you still have to sit through commercials.

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