Amazon to offer DRM-free music downloads

Music store coming later in the year is set to sell tunes unencumbered by copyright protections and ready to play on any device.
Written by Dawn Kawamoto, Contributor
Amazon.com plans to launch a digital music store later this year, featuring music downloads without copyright restrictions.

The e-commerce giant announced Wednesday that it would offer songs from more than 12,000 record labels in the MP3 format, without the controversial digital rights management (DRM) software. Record labels are beginning to warm up to the concept of offering music downloads without DRM, after waging war with peer-to-peer companies over distributing their copyrighted music and over piracy issues.

"Our MP3-only strategy means all the music that customers buy on Amazon is always DRM-free and plays on any device," Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive, said in a statement.

Users will be able to play their music on virtually any device, including PCs, iPods, Zunes and Zens, as well as burn the songs on CDs for personal use.

In making the announcement, Amazon also noted it has teamed up with EMI Music to offer songs from its digital catalog. As part of its digital music store, Amazon will offer EMI's new, premium DRM-free downloads.

Amazon said it would announce pricing details closer to the launch date.

This is the second deal EMI has struck since announcing it would begin offering DRM-free music downloads at a premium price.

Last month, EMI and Apple struck a similar deal with the computer maker's iTunes store. Apple is expected to offer the label's DRM-free music later this month at $1.29 per song, and DRM-protected music for 99 cents a song. The cost of a DRM-free album, however, will be the same price as one with DRM technology.

EMI also has signed similar agreements overseas. VirginMega in France will offer DRM-free EMI downloads, as will a number of Scandinavian online retailers and mobile carriers, such as Telenor, Musicbrigade and Aspiro.

Other record labels that have tested the concept of DRM-free downloads include Jessica Simpson's label, Sony BMG-owned Epic, which teamed up with Yahoo Music year last year to offer a single Jessica Simpson track.

Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group both declined to comment on the EMI announcement and their plans relating to DRM.

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