The Federal Trade Commission is being asked to investigate Web sites that claim to offer legal music downloads for a low price but actually sell popular software that is available free elsewhere on the Internet and is commonly used to steal songs.
Such Web sites typically charge $30 to $40 and prominently advertise services as "100 percent legal." Some sites include smaller print warning that downloading songs without permission violates copyrights and encouraging customers to learn more about copyright law at the Library of Congress.
A Washington-based civil liberties group, the Center for Democracy and Technology, said it planned to file a formal complaint early Tuesday with the trade commission charging such Web sites with deceptive trade practices. The FTC has acted on previous complaints from the group, including one recent case over Internet spyware.
"They're fooling people into spending money to buy products that are competing with legitimate products," said Alan Davidson, an associate director for the group. "These are the people who are really polluting the marketplace."
Lawyers for one Web site, www.mp3downloadhq.com, wrote Monday in a letter that the company "genuinely regrets that anything it has done or failed to do has been interpreted ... as potentially confusing or misleading." The company, Active Publishing of Burbank, Calif., promised to remove the phrase "100 percent legal" from its Web site before Friday.
The Center for Democracy and Technology said its FTC complaint targets two sites, www.Mp3DownloadCity.com and www.MyMusicInc.com, which the group said did not respond to its requests for information. The sites did not respond to telephone and e-mail inquiries Monday from the Associated Press.
Davidson said his organization was still considering whether Active Publishing's response to its complaints was adequate.
Similar sites have sprouted all over the Internet.
"Do I think it's deceptive? Yes, I think it's a ripoff," said Todd Dugas of Boca Raton, Fla., who said he formerly ran one such Web site, www.mp3university.com, until he sold it to business partners in Canada. "I'm glad I'm not involved any more."
Dugas still controls the address for the mp3university.com Web site and said the site would be dismantled within days. Dugas said he was working on another site, musicrewards.com, to sell licensed music. "It's going to be completely legal," he said.