Freedb was a database of user-submitted compact disc track listings,[1] where all the content was under the GNU General Public License. To look up CD information over the Internet, a client program calculated a hash function from the CD table of contents and used it as a disc ID to query the database. If the disc was in the database, the client was able to retrieve and display the artist, album title, track list and some additional information.

Freedb was launched in 2001 based on the CDDB (Compact Disc DataBase) after it had been changed to a proprietary license and renamed "Gracenote".[2] As of 24 April 2006, the Freedb database held just under 2,000,000 CDs.[3] As of 2007, MusicBrainz – a project with similar goals – had a Freedb gateway that allowed access to their own database.[4] The Freedb gateway was shut down on March 18, 2019.[5]

In 2020, Freedb was shut down by Magix, a German company that had acquired it in 2006.



The original software behind CDDB was released under the GNU General Public License, and many people submitted CD information thinking the service would also remain free. The license was later changed, however, and some programmers complained that the new license included certain terms that they couldn't accept: if one wanted to access CDDB, one was not allowed to access any other CDDB-like database (such as Freedb), and any programs using a CDDB lookup had to display a CDDB logo while performing the lookup.[6]

In March 2001, CDDB, now owned by Gracenote, banned all unlicensed applications from accessing their database. New licenses for CDDB1 (the original version of CDDB) were no longer available, since Gracenote wanted to force programmers to switch to CDDB2 (a new version incompatible with CDDB1 and hence with Freedb).[6] The license change motivated the Freedb project, which is intended to remain free.

In a 2006 interview with Wired, CDDB co-creator Steve Scherf pushed back against criticism that with the license change, Gracenote had privatized a public good created by the work of unpaid volunteers, noting that the data submitted to CDDB before the license remained available for download on freedb, and arguing that the stagnation of freedb at that point showed that "the focus and dedication required for CDDB to grow could not be found in a community effort".[7]

Because it inherited CDDB's limitations,[8][9] there is no data field in the Freedb database for composer. This limits its usefulness for classical music CDs. Furthermore, CDs in a series are often introduced in the database by different people, resulting in inconsistent spelling and naming conventions across discs.

Freedb was used primarily by media players, cataloguers, audio taggers and CD ripper software. As of version 6 of the Freedb protocol, Freedb accepted and returned UTF-8 data.

Magix acquired Freedb in 2006.[10] MusicBrainz – a project with similar goals – released a Freedb gateway in 2007, allowing users to harvest information from the MusicBrainz database rather than Freedb.[4] This service was shuttered in 2019.[11] A 2011 review observed that "unlike the flat file database structure of, MusicBrainz is structured as a relational database, which has allowed MusicBrainz to expand its scope."[1]

In June 2020, went offline (after its impending shutdown had been announced in March 2020).[2] Asked by Heise News about the reasons for the service's demise, Magix stated that the updates required by a changing legal and technical environment had made it uneconomical to maintain.[2] An expert quoted by Heise ruled out server costs as the reason, observing that a single request to the service amounted to just around five kilobytes of transferred data.[2] has continued to provide the database after was shut down.[12]

Client software


Further Freedb aware applications include:

See also



  1. ^ a b Stutzbach, Alisa Rata (2011). "Review of MusicBrainz". Notes. 68 (1): 147–151. ISSN 0027-4380.
  2. ^ a b c d Haas, Karl-Gerhard (2020-06-23). "CD-Datenbanken: freedb ist tot, es leben die Alternativen!". heise online (in German). Retrieved 2023-12-10.
  3. ^ joerg (2006-04-24). "Massive duplicate cleanup completed". freedb. Archived from the original on 2006-05-10. Retrieved 2006-05-09.
  4. ^ a b Kaye, Robert (2007-06-25). "FreeDB → MusicBrainz gateway now available!". MusicBrainz. Retrieved 2007-07-10.
  5. ^ "Freedb gateway: End of life notice, March 18, 2019". MetaBrainz Blog. 2018-09-18. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  6. ^ a b "Why". freedb. Archived from the original on 2006-07-05. Retrieved 2006-05-09.
  7. ^ Van Buskirk, Eliot (2006-11-13). "Gracenote Defends Its Evolution". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2023-12-10.
  8. ^ "Tips on using CD Trustee - Classical music". CD Trustee. Sane Soft, LLC. Archived from the original on 2008-06-06.
  9. ^ Brown, Stan (2016-12-18). "Taming iTunes & iPod for Classical Music (and Non-Classical Too)". Oak Road Systems.
  10. ^ kaiser (2006-10-04). "[MAGIX acquires]". freedb. Archived from the original on 2007-03-03. Retrieved 2006-10-05.
  11. ^ "Freedb gateway: End of life notice, March 18, 2019". 18 September 2018.
  12. ^ "A new home for the database to make sure it stays free". Retrieved 2020-07-13. Now 14 years later we have seen that Magix the owner of has decided to take the cddb service on freedb down. As we stated in 2006 on "A new home for the database to make sure it stays free.", we now have to stay to our promise and do our best to make sure it is available for all the music lovers.

Further reading