May 16, 2007 7:23 AM PDT

Amazon to offer DRM-free music downloads

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.

See more CNET content tagged:
EMI Group Plc., Amazon.com Inc., music download, digital-rights management, song

22 comments

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could it be?
That the record companies are finally starting to realize that they need to change or die?
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is a test.
This a test by the music companies. When piracy increases
exponentially, as it certainly will, in spades, the industry will
then have the perfect evidence to begin even more stringent
DRM methods. Face it, the human race is no damn good and will
steal their mother's social security check if they think they can
get away with it. Why do we have laws against theft if not to
prevent or deter it? The result will be, for example, one student
at a high school buying a DRM-free album and then "sharing it"
with the rest of the whole damn school. This will encourage
theft, not reduce it. Just wait and see.

Rationalizing theft is part of the sick human condition. "If I say it
isn't stealing then it isn't." How convenient.
Posted by lkrupp (1608 comments )
Link Flag
Selling used digital files?
Will amazon customers be able to sell their downloads on Amazon Marketplace when they tire of them just as they can do with purchase CDs?
Posted by banishedheart (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
WTF?
Used digital files?
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Link Flag
So typical of CNet
to misrepresent the facts about DRM and include a link to the Sony rootkit fiasco which has nothing to do with online music sales.

Come on CNet you can do better than this. You really should change that link to something relevant.

Christopher Levy
clevy@buydrm.com
www.buydrm.com
Posted by streamOG (134 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So typical of CNet
to misrepresent the facts about DRM and include a link to the Sony rootkit fiasco which has nothing to do with online music sales.

Come on CNet you can do better than this. You really should change that link to something relevant.

Christopher Levy
clevy@buydrm.com
www.buydrm.com
Posted by streamOG (134 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually it is relevant
I am glad that you seem to have found a niche off monetizing DRM schemes, but CNet's link is relevant. The Sony rootkit situation isn't the only case of DRM gone awry, merely the most notable example. What exactly would be a relevant link anyways? The sentence uses the words controversial. Therefore, any link must show DRM in at least a somewhat negative light. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to be taking Sony's initial reaction that because most people don't know what a rootkit is that they shouldn't care. As history has revealed that attitude is a PR disaster waiting to happen.

Here is some free advice: If you want people to accept your product you have to avoid the mistakes of previous DRM schemes. You can't take a nonchalant attitude towards customer security. Otherwise the media will burn you. It isn't because they hate you or they are trying to "misrepresent the facts about DRM." The media loves reporting about personal and corporate vice. Anyone who denies that Sony screwed up is either ignorant or arrogant. You have to take a proactive approach towards making your product, not a reactive one. As long as purveyors of DRM retain your attitude you can expect that overall interest in products with DRM will go downhill. By the way your website doesn't say anything about DRM in general or why anything the general population knows about it is wrong. You seem to be singing to the choir.

Furthermore, if you want customers to buy a product that gives them less freedom you have to charge less for the product not the same price or worse yet more. Sure there are suckers born every minute, but the vast majority of people won't buy something that costs the same, but gives them less value. I can't remember how many digital media stores that have failed that tried selling music for the more than it would cost to buy it on a CD never mind the lower distribution costs! Until you learn these harsh realities you will never be more than bit player in an industry that is slowly rejecting DRM as a paranoid mistake.
Posted by BigGuns149 (790 comments )
Link Flag
Wow...
12,000 songs... That is SOOO many... oh wait... no it's not, and most people will probably not find what they want... so either get several million like iTunes or no deal.
Posted by bobmarksdale (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
iTunes?
How does a pro-Apple comment even wind up on a story like this? Not to mention it says 12,000 record labels, not songs.
Posted by wmasterxl (4 comments )
Link Flag
Possibly the end of DRM?
This is obviously a huge step for music downloading. I don't see why someone will prefer to download "DRMed" music from iTunes as opposed to a regular MP3 from Amazon. Amazon has a huge amount of visitor traffic, and I'm sure it will boldly announce what "DRM-free" means. So even people who are unfamiliar with the technology will know the difference. No matter how big and powerful record labels are, it's the consumer that controls their profits. Consumers will prefer their music DRM-free and the labels will have to comply.
Posted by wmasterxl (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In an Fairty Tale World
Consumers don't dictate how content holders protect their interests. That's just not the case. I think you are overstating the power of the consumer dollar. Consumers buy protected assets and use DRM-like technology every day.

The real issue is about Apple not licensing FairPlay. If they did all the conversations about DRM would go away.
Posted by streamOG (134 comments )
Link Flag
of course
I've been predicting the fall of DRM for 10 years. I still can't believe they tried for so long. All it did was cost them more money and that cost got passed on to people being honest and paying to download.

They have still made a mistake though. Instead of it costing MORE for DRM free music, it should cost less, as it cost THEM less to produce it. The fact is, there is no such thing as working DRM anyway. They would like you to think they are doing you a favor by removing it, but the thing is, anyone can remove it any time they want. It can be bypassed so easily my 10 year old daughter can do it. So I will continue to pay the 99 cents and remove the DRM so I can backup my music the way I want. It's time for them to stop trying to back pedal and just stop the useless DRM effort all together.

I am a musician and I want it that way. If I write something good enough for people to want to steal then it's probably close to good enough for them to buy it. If they want to steal it, that is their own ethical dilemma to deal with. DRM won't stop them, it will just **** off my less ethically challenged fans. So there you go...
Posted by keyguy (14 comments )
Link Flag
.FLAC
The real revolution will be the release of lossless files such as .FLAC. Until then I will stick with CDs and other sources of hi-fi music files.
Posted by jimzzzak (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
LOL
No offense but a 192 Kbps mp3 converted directly from a 44 khz wav file is indestinguishable by your ears (by human ears actually). Claiming your cds sound better is just a trick you've been playing on yourself.
Posted by keyguy (14 comments )
Link Flag
Welcome Non-DRM
This is good news for music listeners around the globe and I guess will be welcomed with arms open. The DRM policies that were ruling the use and distribution of music files had restrictions and terms that was unjust and unfriendly to the purchser of the digital content - in other words, the people who framed it DID NOT take into consideration the rights of the purchaser or consumer. Such sort of DRM policies were bound to fail - FOREVER. OFCOURSE - If I have PURCHASED a piece of music in digital form - it makes no real sense for me as a CUSTOMER to have restrictions on the number of digital devices that I can transfer it to. Its good that it happened sooner. I wish the legal music industry will see a huge rise in sales after this new policy - rather than stupidly losing over pirated content providers.
Posted by ddas77 (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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