“In a move that would mark the end of a digital music era, Sony BMG Music Entertainment is finalizing plans to sell songs without the copyright protection software that has long restricted the use of music downloaded from the Internet, BusinessWeek.com has learned. Sony BMG, a joint venture of Sony (SNE) and Bertelsmann, will make at least part of its collection available without so-called digital rights management, or DRM, software some time in the first quarter, according to people familiar with the matter,” Catherine Holahan reports for BusinessWeek.
“Sony BMG would become the last of the top four music labels to drop DRM, following Warner Music Group, which in late December said it would sell DRM-free songs through Amazon.com’s digital music store. EMI and Vivendi’s Universal Music Group announced their plans for DRM-free downloads earlier in 2007,” Holahan reports.
“In a Feb. 6, 2007, letter titled ‘Thoughts on Music,’ [Apple CEO Steve Jobs] pointed the finger at the labels for supporting DRM, silently suggesting the wrath of consumers and antitrust authorities should lie with them. Within two months, EMI, one of the smaller of the big four labels, offered to sell higher-quality, DRM-free tracks through iTunes,” Holahan reports.
“Rather than following EMI’s lead, other labels are hoping to create another Apple competitor in Amazon, which is willing to give the recording industry greater pricing flexibility. ‘That was a big part of it—countering Apple’s control in a positive way by creating more able competitors,’ says Mike McGuire, a vice-president for research at Gartner,” Holahan reports. “Narrowing Apple’s lead won’t be easy. Just ask Microsoft, which has made meager headway with its Zune music player and online music store.”
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