Newspapers and online communities have been awash the past week with the news that a Swedish court found four men connected with The Pirate Bay website guilty of aiding copyright infringement. They were sentenced to a year in prison and substantial fines. The verdict itself wasn’t a surprise to most, since similar websites had lost similar cases in the past. Interestingly, there were reports before the verdict that Sweden had recently seen a 100% increase in legal online music sales – most likely as a result of the introduction of the new IPRED law which makes it easier to track down the end users of copyright infringed works.

One Swedish company – Spotify – has been ready for these developments for a while, and yesterday I finally signed up with them myself. Why I took so long I don’t know – my broadband provider, Bredbandsbolaget, provides free access! So what does Spotify do? Well, they don’t sell you songs for download like iTunes or provide links to “torrents” like The Pirate Bay does. Instead they take advantage of the superb broadband infrastructure available in Sweden (I have 100mb fibre connection) to stream music on demand, all backed with agreements with record labels and bands. There are thousands and thousands of tracks available, you can listen to a whole album, or select individual tracks, or even select the genres you like and let Spotify create a playlist for you.

So far I’m impressed. The range available is extraordinary, the quality is fantastic, and the software is fairly easy and straightforward. What’s more – it’s all 100% legal! Spotify is still in beta and requires an invite if you want to join the free offer and aren’t using a current partner like Bredbandsbolaget. I have 10 invites to use, so anyone who wants to give it a try – drop me a note! All it needs is 256k connection and Mac or Windows.

Superb job Spotify – well done!