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French Music Service Offers DRM-free Tunes

The French online digital music store, Starzik, has teamed up with The Orchard, a digital distributor and marketer for independent musicians, to offer music downloads that are not restricted by digital rights management copy protection. The Orchard is supplying about 400,000 tracks to Starzik in MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, AAC, and WMA formats to ensure compatibility with any digital music player, including the iPod.

Starzik is a Web-based music service, and offers individual tracks for �1 (about US$1.26), and albums for �9.99 (about $12.62). Right now, the company is offering a feature that even Apple can't provide through the iTunes Music Store since music tracks are DRM-free.

Although the independent artists that The Orchard represents are willing to have their music distributed without any copy protection schemes in place, larger labels aren't likely to follow suit.

Starzik is in a prime position to take music sales from Apple if France passes legislation that forces music distributors to open their DRM technologies to competitors. If such legislation passed, Apple would likely close down its iTunes Music Store operations in France instead of sharing its FairPlay copy protection scheme with competitors.

Companies like Sony and Microsoft would be in a similar position, and would have to decide whether or not to open proprietary copy protection technology to other music services.

So far, there isn't much talk about the possibility of unauthorized sharing since the Starzik music is DRM-free. Larger recording labels and Apple are probably watching closely to see what happens.

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