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Universal Goes DRM-free Without Apple
Friday, August 10th, 2007 at 9:15 AM - by
Universal Music Group has joined EMI in experimenting with DRM-free music downloads, but unlike EMI, will be going without Apple and the iTunes Store. Instead, the label will offer its copy protection free tracks through other online music services, according to the New York Times.
DRM-laden tracks from Universal are still available at the iTunes Store, but the copy protection free versions will appear at other sites including RealNetworks, Wal-Mart, and Amazon. The decision to snub the iTunes Store may be an attempt by Universal to strip away some of the control Apple has over the music download industry.
Apple is seen as the market leader for legit music downloads with over 70 percent of the market in its pocket. The company has imposed tight controls over song pricing despite recording industry efforts to raise song prices and force Apple to switch to a music subscription model.
Music distributers have been trying to find new ways to increase revenue ever since CD sales began to drop a few years ago. Labels have been pressuring for higher per-track pricing and subscription schemes, even though consumers don't seem interested in higher song prices and what amounts to music rentals.
When EMI announced that it would offer DRM-free tracks through the iTunes Store, Apple agreed to raise prices for those songs from US$0.99 to $1.29 -- but the EMI tracks are also encoded to offer higher quality sound, too. While Apple has said that it is willing to offer the same deal to other labels, Universal does not appear to be interested, and has even gone so far as to refuse to renew its annual contract with Apple in favor of a month-to-month agreement.
Should Universal's experiment with DRM-free songs not pan out, the company has a built-in escape plan. It has already stated that the test program will only run through January 2008.
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