EMI Capitulates to Apple, Experiments with DRM-Free Downloads on iTunes

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Record label EMI Group Plc, home of hit musicians like the Rolling Stones, Britney Spears and Coldplay, has announced that it will be selling high-bitrate tracks on the iTunes music store without the industry-standard digital rights management software that protects them from being played on unauthorized devices.

EMI will charge $1.29 per track. Higher bitrate means better sound quality. Low bitrate DRM’s songs will still be available on iTunes at the standard price of $.99. iTunes users can choose to “upgrade” their existing DRM’s music for $.30 per song.

“By providing DRM-free downloads, we aim to address the lack of interoperability which is frustrating for many music fans,” said EMI CEO Eric Nicoli in a statement.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs released a statement against DRM software in February saying that Apple developed its FairPlay DRM software only because the music industry demanded it. The statement came after several European countries began examining legislation that would force Apple to license its FairPlay system to other manufacturers of digital music players.

“We think our customers are going to love this, and we expect to offer more than half of the songs on iTunes in DRM-free versions by the end of this year,” added Jobs.

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