Public libraries across the nation (and overseas) have begun partnering with Freegal (free + legal), a relatively new service that allows library cardholders to download up to three mp3s per week. All of the tunes come from Sony Music Entertainment 's catalog, which includes hundreds of thousands of songs across 100 genres of music. Free mp3 downloads legal.
***Update: Freegal CEO Brian Downing says the company also features music from 10,000 other record labels.
All you need is a library card to download tracks off the site (each library branch has its own log-in page). Punch it in along with your PIN and search for whatever song or artist you're looking for. The site is nice and clean, with songs listed by genre and top-sellers, much like iTunes or Amazon's mp3 store.
Freegal keeps track of each download and cuts users off once they've reached their three download max. Queue up music in your "Wishlist" to save it for later.
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Your music will play on any mp3 player, including iPods, and can be downloaded to iTunes or burned to a CD.
"Use the alphabetical search function on the bottom right of the homepage rather than the search box or the advanced search in the upper-right corner. While all three will work, only the alphabetical search at the bottom of the homepage will show the results with album artwork, release dates, running times, and information other than artist, album title, and track name."
Freegal doesn't list all participating branches at the moment, but soon you'll be able to search by zip code on its site, Downing says. For now, search your local library branch + 'Freegal' to see if it participates.
Here are a few major branches using Freegal:
NYPL, DC Public, Free Library of Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles City, Los Angeles County, Orlando, and San Antonio.