Apple and music labels in discussions to sell DRM-free songs, say sources

“A year after iTunes began offering music without copy protection software from EMI, Apple is in discussions with the other three top recording companies about acquiring DRM-free songs, according to two music industry sources,” Greg Sandoval reports for CNET.

“The talks are still preliminary and no deals have been finalized, but one source said one of the major labels is close to a final agreement. Rumors have been swirling on the Internet for a week that Sony would soon be offering music without the controversial digital rights management software. My sources could not confirm this,” Sandoval reports.

“Spokespeople for Apple and the major labels declined to comment,” Sandoval reports.

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Ottawa Mark” for the heads up.]


  1. I think it’s stupid for anybody to believe they are just starting to discuss this now. I’m sure they’ve been talking off and on about this for probably more than two years now.

    I think the major labels have seen that their attempt to break iTunes by forcing the continued use of DRM, while letting other online stories offer their music without DRM for less money hasn’t really worked.

  2. According to this version of the story, “[t]he report claims that the switch would use MP3s as the choice of format” – hopefully this is not true. After all, AAC is already compatible with nearly all “mp3” players out there, and is technologically superior to mp3 as well.

    Unfortunately, we *do* have record label folks involved, who worry that if consumers don’t see “mp3”, they won’t buy. I doubt Apple would switch to mp3, but the labels might do something stupid like stipulating mp3 as a condition.

  3. Well, obviously the record companies need to do this. But we need the movie studios to do this as well! The movie studios are even greedier than the music industry, and that’s hard to believe!

  4. Well it looks like you I-Pod lemmings continue to get shafted by proprietary Apple. Today they’re taking away your DRM. What will they take away tomorrow? You simply don’t see these types of shenanigans being pulled over at Zune Marketplace.

    So let’s add DRM to the list of features Zune enthusiasts enjoy along with FM, super-generous squirting rights and the color brown. Have you MAC sheep had enough?

    I’m a PC.

    Your potential. Our passion.™

  5. I wonder how they will remove the encryption within the aac stream of the songs when they turn off the fairplay servers? I would hate make music cd’s (60gb worth of purchased music) and re-rip them to unprotected aac.

  6. JB:

    Probably not. It would most likely be too much hassle for Apple and the only reason they’d do this would be if to many people clamored for it.

    It has been about a year since Amazon begun selling their DRM-free MP3. Perhaps the labels have Amazon one year to displace iTunes. Since iTunes didn’t budge at all, they are now realising it might never happen and, since DRM-free didn’t cause any rampant piracy for EMI, they are probably making their peace with the idea.

    The one main label that will have to get on board for Apple to declare total victory is Universal. They still command about one third of all commercially sold music. I’m sure, sooner or later, they’ll come to Steve and he’ll let them play…

  7. > controversial digital rights management software.

    Controversial? Most iTunes Store customers who use iPods (so that’s most of them) don’t even know there is any DRM.

    I guess the record labels are finally realizing that “forcing” Apple to continue using DRM was not hurting Apple, it was helping Apple. The only way to really hurt Apple is to demand that Apple only offer their music DRM-free at 256 kbps (instead of the current 128 kbps).

    Despite the Steve Jobs “open letter,” I think Apple would have been content to continue the status quo and keep the DRM indefinitely. It was not hurting iPod sales, music sales, or iTunes Store dominance.

    When Apple eventually goes 100% DRM-free with songs, it cuts the iPod to iTunes Store exclusivity. All other music players that play AAC files suddenly will be “compatible with the iTunes Store.” Since the iTunes Store is mostly a low-profit (or no-profit) service for iPod customers (to encourage iPod sales), Apple will become the “non-profit” music download service provider for the competition’s digital media players. Even Zune users could get their music at the iTunes Store. Is that a good thing…?

    And by upping the kbps to 256, Apple will need double the bandwidth to serve up the same number of song files. That just means higher operating expenses for the iTunes Store.

    Between higher expenses and having to run a music delivery service for the competition, I wouldn’t be surprised if even Apple decided that 99-cents per songs was too low.

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