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iTunes finally goes DRM-free ... does anyone really care?

News from the Macworld Expo - iTunes is in the final stages of shedding DRM, offering some eight million of its 10 million songs in Apple’s iTunes Plus DRM-free format. But does anyone care? Is there anyone who is still concerned about DRM buying anything from the iTunes store?

News from the Macworld Expo - iTunes is in the final stages of shedding DRM, offering some eight million of its 10 million songs in Apple’s iTunes Plus DRM-free format. But does anyone care? Is there anyone who is still concerned about DRM buying anything from the iTunes store?

Here's the deal. Starting today, four music labels (Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI) along with numerous independent labels are offering music in Apple's 256 kbps AAC DRM-free format. At present some eight million tracks are available in iTunes Plus format. By the end of March all 10 million titles will be available DRM-free.

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Customers who have bought DRM-encumbered tracks now have the opportunity to carry out a one-click upgrade of their entire library into iTunes Plus format for 30 cents per song or 30 percent of the album price (Apple takes the opportunity to squeeze the final few drops of cash out of DRM).

But does anyone care? Really? Is anyone who is concerned about DRM buying music from iTunes? There are plenty of online outlets now offering DRM-free music so Apple isn't leading as much as playing catch-up.

In other iTunes news, by April, iTunes will be available at one of three price points: $0.69, $0.99 and $1.29, with most albums still priced at $9.99. Price tiers will be set by the labels. This price-tiering seems to be Apple's concession to the music labels for ditching DRM. My guess however is that this tiering system will backfire on the music industry and result in prices coming down.

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