May 30, 2007 8:10 AM PDT

iTunes goes DRM-free with EMI

Apple's iTunes Store began selling DRM-free songs from EMI on Wednesday.

DRM (digital rights management) software prevents owners from copying or freely using a digital file across multiple devices.

As expected, all the songs from music label EMI that are sold on iTunes are now available in DRM-free versions. Shoppers have the option to purchase either a 256kbps AAC-encoded DRM-free song for $1.29 via iTunes Plus, or the usual 128kbps AAC-encoded DRM-version for 99 cents.

"We expect more than half of the songs on iTunes will be offered in iTunes Plus versions by the end of this year," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement. No one at Apple was available for live comment on Wednesday morning.

Previously purchased EMI songs can be upgraded to the DRM-free version for 30 cents per song, or $3 per album.

EMI artists in the deal include Coldplay, The Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra. The deal excludes Beatles songs.

In February, Jobs released an open letter asking that record companies consider going DRM-free. Apple and EMI announced in April that a DRM-free deal was in the works and that it would exclude Beatles songs.

In order to use iTunes Plus, people must download iTunes 7.2, the latest version of the software.

eMusic already offers DRM-free songs, but its catalog has been limited to mostly independent labels.

See more CNET content tagged:
EMI Group Plc., Apple iTunes, song, digital-rights management, Steve Jobs


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My Car, Hi-Fi, DVD Player don't know AAC
Sooo close, and yet sooooo far !! Finally a drm free solution, but alas, I am still restricted to the few devices which support AAC. So my Prius, my home & portable DVD Player, My Hi-Fi, none will work - unless I spend time converting (and degrading) my music.

Apple, Thank you for solving the DRM issue, but you have created another yourselves. No don't go Sony on us and insist on the square peg ACC fit into a round hole, we are in an MP3 world.

I will now have to wait for Amazon to sell MP3's, my wallet was sooo close to opening up...*Sigh*
Posted by D.G.Tal (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't understand...
I download iTunes, put them on CD/DVD, and play them
anywhere... what seems to be your problem...
Posted by shycelticwitch (1042 comments )
Link Flag
DRM-Free = Freedom to Transcode
You could always transcode AAC to MP3 or whatever other format your car hi-fi DVD player already knows about.

Of course, if you're one of those audiophiles that has to have audio-perfection, which never ever happens anyway, you won't want to do that.

Then again, if you're an audiophile, you're probably not downloading music off of the internet to begin with.
Posted by `WarpKat (275 comments )
Link Flag
Transcoding is easy
On iTunes, all you need to do is set your Importing preferences
to mp3. Then, select all the files you want to convert and
choose the "Convert Selection to MP3" option from the Advanced
Menu. Let the computer do its thing.

The good thing is that you are starting with much higher-quality
files than the traditional iTunes files, so there's more "room" to
transcode with decent quality.

As you may know, there are lawsuits surrounding use of mp3.
AAC is an open format. Soon it will be a standard option on
most players and stereos because desire for compatibility with
iTunes songs will drive things that way.
Posted by Thrudheim (306 comments )
Link Flag
My car stereo plays DRM and non-DRM AAC
I just plug my iPod into it. :-)
Posted by chabig83 (535 comments )
Link Flag
Buy the song, convert to mp3 and use. It's called fair use. It's like buying a book in Japanese and translating it into English so you can read it. You still own the book and you rightfully paid for it. It's yours to do with as you please.

You can do it... you have the technology...
Posted by lamarguy91 (9 comments )
Link Flag
Convert em' to MP3
Convert em' to MP3. It's a simple click in iTunes. Sorry, but MP3 is
of lesser quality. I take AAC any day. Most newer players support
AAC now anyways.
Posted by BlackMicro (118 comments )
Link Flag
But now its automated.
Yes, it does take time to convert. At least now you can automate the whole process, instead of having to manually burn to a CD, rip, and rename.

Although I must admit, I would be opening my wallet quit a bit more if the tracks were DRM-Free AND Lossless. *Sigh*
Posted by CagedAnimal (67 comments )
Link Flag
Not only is it ACC only...
But the new iTunes can't get it's head out of it's ass. When you first click on the link in the iTunes store for iTunes plus, it takes you to a new page where you can download the new DRM free tracks. But when you click on an a song or album, a popup appears that says:
"Do You Want to Set Your iTunes Plus Preference?

By selecting iTunes Plus below, you will always see the iTunes Plus version of an album or music video whenvever one is available. You can change this preference by going to your iTunes Store Account page at any time."

Ok, so I tell it no... And nothing happens. It doesn't let me look at the album or track I selected. Ok, so I think "just say yes then go back and reset the preference back to show normal tracks whenever one is available", since I'd rather surf through the DRM free stuff on a page all it's own, but when you do that, the next time you go to iTunes Plus and click on an album or song, again iTunes demands you set your preference to iTunes plus! I gotta say, I'd rather not have this setting set like this because I don't ever want to get something I didn't want. What if I purchase music thinking I'm getting DRM free tracks when it's actually the old crappy-AaScSc tracks? No, it's better to have the DRM free stuff be it's own store or section to prevent confusion. But stupid iTunes can't get it's head out of it's ass!

What were they thinking?!!
Posted by mattumanu (599 comments )
Link Flag
Change it?
But I itune can change all song over to mp3 I believe.
Posted by not2worried (98 comments )
Link Flag
My Alpine works with AAC data cds perfectly!
I think Best Buy has good deals on car stereos that offer iPod and AAC cd compatibility.

That's were I bought mine at least.

Hope this helps!
Posted by jhpadilla (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
DRM-free albums best buy
The C/Net article does not include important information about the new iTunes prices. Full EMI DRM-free albums are usually $9.99, the same price as most with DRM and lower quality.
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I equate DRM free to mp3
I'm assume their using AAC to avoid licensing fees for mp3 format.

How many mp3 players will play AAC?
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are you serious?
Roughly 90% of the players on the market support AAC.
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Link Flag
Ooh, ahh, ohh... what are you kidding me?!?!
Alrgiht, it's a big step forward, offering DRM-free tracks. But you should not have to pay an extra $0.30 for it. For a dozen song album, it costs $15.48 to download. And if I want to play it in my car, I have to keep stock of blank CDs. And storing recorded CDs in say a visor, where the disc only sticks out from the fold by less than half an inch, makes it much more difficult to recognize a CD than a one that you bought and have album art printed onto the disc. Sure you can buy and print disc labels for your burned albums, but that is just more work and money. You can buy the same dozen song album from a Best Buy from 10-13 bucks. You don't have to keep blank cds or print labels (save for mix cds and what not, but the quantity required to keep on hand is reduced) and you get album art and, most of the time, lyrics. AND, you can rip it to your computer in whatever format you want, DRM-free. Why the $#!% would I want to spend more time, money and effort downloading an album from iTunes? Where's the value? I'll admit, it's an exchange of conveniances, but it's still not worth it.

When you find a subscription based, DRM-free music service, let me know. That would be a consumer friendly business model, but I doubt I will ever see it. It would allow me to download as much music as I want for the same rate.

A more realistic, model would be $0.59 a DRM-free track. That would be a $7.08 dozen track album, and a good value. It would still be a $0.70 profit cut for the labels, but would be supplemented by increased sales volume.

It's just the way it should be.
Posted by iamfaker (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
someone didn't do research...
Last I heard, the DRM-Free albums will cost $9.99 as well. You only pay extra for purchasing singular songs. There'll never be a drm-free business model based on subscription, because subscription implies DRM. Otherwise it's "download as many songs as you want for $x.xx a month!" which is going to be a hard sell for the labels.
Posted by pjhenry1216 (865 comments )
Link Flag
check your facts
You don't seem to be aware that the album price is cheaper than
the sum of the individual tracks, and that DRM-free albums are
the same price as the non-DRM versions (so the discount is
bigger, in other words).

For example, the 18-song album of Tina Turner's greatest hits is
$12.99, not $23.22 as you would expect.

By the way, keeping original CDs in your car is not a great idea if
you want your CDs to last a long time. Better burn copies, but
then you've got the same problem with labels.

Personally, I'd much rather have my music stored on hard drives
than sitting around in a bunch of CDs that take up space and
add clutter.

I assume that by "subscription service" you mean "music rental
service." Such a thing will never be DRM-free. Otherwise,
people would just download everything and then stop paying.
So, yeah, it would be REALLY consumer-friendly. If only . . .

Agree with you that prices ought to be cheaper, but the labels
have been asking for more than current prices. Maybe they will
see the light down the road.
Posted by Thrudheim (306 comments )
Link Flag
Albums start at $9.99
Individual tracks are $1.29.
Posted by keaggy220 (57 comments )
Link Flag
Well, iTunes like nearly everything sold by the music industry has always been overpriced, it has to do with what music executives want, not just Apple's decision. Blank Cds are very cheap, and you have far more options than just using a CD player with these tracks.

I doubt any subscription service will be DRM-free, because it's just a digital version of a rental service like Blockbuster. If you're talking about some kind of music club where you own the songs, such as pay a certain amount a month for x number of songs, it's different, but of course offering a DRM free music rental service won't happen anytime soon. I don't care so much about this, however what is wrong is DRM and similar measures and products you buy and own. If you pay for a CD or DVD, with the exception of piracy and actual crimes, you should be able to do what you want with it within fair use provisions, and not be treated like a criminal.
Posted by jdbwar07 (150 comments )
Link Flag
They are using AAC instead of MP3 since a) that is what the iTunes Store started with and b) it is a more efficient, higher-quality format than MP3. MP3 may be ubiquitous, but it is long-in-the-tooth as far as other formats (AAC, OGG, and WMA) are concerned.
Posted by OscarWeb (76 comments )
Reply Link Flag
HIgher quality???
It doesn't matter what the bitrate is, AAC sounds bad. MP3 is tolerable at 196 kbps, and is outstanding at higher rates. I encoded music of a CS using 196 kbps AAC and it sounded worse then 128 kbps MP3.

I use K3B which is a fantastic front end for LAME and record 320 kbps MP3 and the quality is phenomenal. On AAC I would have to go 1028 kbps to even come close to the quality of MP3.

WMA is a joke, no reason to use that crap format. Ogg Vorbis isn't that much better then MP3 where I would want to switch.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Link Flag
Big Deal
Apple is still useless when they are not using the mp3 format. You are still restricted to using the Ipod because of them using the aac format. I will buy music from Apple when it's mp3. Guess I'll wait for Amazon.
Posted by pwruser (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Change your name to simpleusr ...
... it is far more approriate. At no time, are you restricted to using
an iPod. That was true before, and true now. Wait, change your
name to babyuser.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
"pwruser"? Pah!
Sounds like you need to rename yourself.
It's pretty easy for anyone to get online and verify that the vast
majority of portable players sold are AAC capable.
Then again, you're prolly lamenting the demise of the 8-Track too,
so I'll just wish you well with your 1980's technology
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Link Flag
Why Apple sticks with AAC...
I don't believe that Apple started with AAC and that's the <i>biggest</i> reason why they're continuing to use it...
I feel that it's simply that, as so many others have stated, there are only a few devices which support AAC format; <i>especially</i> when comparing portable music devices. By continuing to only offer AAC as their digital format, they are continuing to <b>force</b> more iPod sales. The iPod has a clear, crisp interface and, in my opinion, is superior to any other portable device on the market! This is just one of the reasons iPods held a 72.7% market share of all digital music players as of January 2007!

The biggest reason that I, personally, use AAC format is because the files are smaller than MP3 and the audio quality is superior. I'm not saying I buy all my music from Apple, but when I get a new CD, I rip it into my PC in MP4 (AAC) format. So to me, it's a win-win because I can store <i>a lot more</i> tracks that sound <i>better</i> than MP3! Nuff said?
Posted by laxmanchip (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
patents means AAC is cheaper then MP3
Accourding to wikipedia, and other sources..

If apple was going to release music in the mp3 format they would have to pay a percentage of the money they earned to the MP3 rights holders.

With the AAC format they do not have to pay based on song. AAC is cheaper for a company to use.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
No licenses or payments are required to be able to stream or distribute content in AAC format. [3] This reason alone makes AAC a much more attractive format for distributing content, particularly streaming content (such as Internet radio).

Yes, you probably can get away with distributing MP3s without a license, but Apple could not. They are a big target, they either have to pay the fees to license the patent or use another format like AAC
Posted by zoredache (14 comments )
Link Flag
EMI Artists
It's not like <i>ALL</i> of iTunes will be DRM free, just the EMI label (for now):<br>
<a href="">EMI Artists</a>
Posted by laxmanchip (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Great deal, better audio
Took about 2 hours to dl 40 replacement tracks, their servers are
slagged today. But it's totally worth it, the audio quality is much
improved. I can't believe anyone is whining about AAC format, you
can easily burn an audio CD or convert these tracks to MP3. On the
downside, they went live without upgrading all the EMI tracks,
some of my previous purchases were on the upgrade list and some
Posted by Keith X (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
i agree
The audio is much improved. I download all my music from iTunes
now, and I liked all of the music that was on the Upgrade page, so I
went ahead, and I was pleasantly surprised that not only can I do
whatever I want with it now, but it sounds significantly better.

Norah Jones sings even better than I thought :P
Posted by iKenny (98 comments )
Link Flag
Itunes update.
Does this Itunes update include any updates for compatability with Vista?? I had the latest version up to today's date &#38; I still have problems with playing video on itunes &#38; quicktime. Also why AAC? Why not mp3?
Posted by jphillips10 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Does not play on Xbox 360
I downloaded one of the new 256k tracks and immediately popped it onto a USB drive and stuck it in my Xbox 360. It does not play. Interesting enough, a ripped track (also 255k AAC) from a store bought CD does play. What is embedded in the file that would not allow it to be played on the 360?
Posted by jakec (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Could be because Apple is hiding
non-standard data in the AAC file itself.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

basically all these files open every customer to privacy invasions by having their music purchasing habits open for the world to see.
Posted by streamOG (134 comments )
Link Flag
All or nothing upgrades...not good
Did anyone happen to notice in the FAQ on iTunes for upgrading your existing Music Store purchases to the higher quality, DRM-free music that you can upgrade all or none of your existing tracks? You can't select which albums or songs to upgrade, only all of them. For those of us who have made many purchases from the Music Store that really adds up. I will not making the upgrade as is, but I would if I could choose which of my songs and albums are worth the extra money. Apple seems to be punishing those of us who are their best customers by pricing the upgrade beyond our means.
Posted by dukeboy42 (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Some Corrections To This Article
CNet continues to amaze me with their factually incorrect and misleading articles about DRM.

1. DRM does not prevent files from being copied. The subtitle of this article is mis-leading. Anybody can copy a song that is protected with DRM. Whether or not they can access the song is a different physical issue.

2. DRM does not prevent ?owners from copying or freely using a digital file across multiple devices.?

One of the common misperceptions is that someone ?owns? a piece of music when they buy it online or physically. They are buying a license to listen to or use the music. They don?t ?own? it per se.

DRM allows content to be copied to multiple devices provided the device supports the technology being used very similar to the way cell phone networks and cable networks and satellite TV networks all operate.
Posted by streamOG (134 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh please - Audio CD conversion is hardly a downgrade in quality
To the people whining that they can't play native AAC files in
their various players, please get a clue. Yes, converting a
compressed digital track into another digital format causes
some data loss, but converting to Audio CD format (essentially
AIFF files) at least is not converting to another compressed
technology so any data loss would be at an absolute minimum. I
can guarantee your human ears could not tell the difference
between a 256KB AAC-encoded file and the same file converted
to an Audio CD format, especially on your car stereo.

And to those wanting data in MP3 format, AAC is better quality
for the same file size as MP3, or, less file size for the same
quality as MP3. If you got your MP3 format I'm sure you'd be
griping that you can't fit as many songs on one disk as if they
were AAC format.

MP3 is old school, time to move on.
Posted by Lucky Lou (88 comments )
Reply Link Flag
DRM free... so how does this work for the artist
DRM free is just not smart. Great for consumers who want free music, bad for funding the entertainment industry and rewarding artists and songwriters. essentially what Apple and EMI are saying is, "for an extra 30 cents you get to pirate music to all and sundry". Now for those that don't know, out of that 30 cents, Apple gets 15 and the label gets 15 cents and then the label passes 35% of its 15 cents to the artist. So the artist (such as Coldplay) will get a staggering 5 cents more per track, so everyone can copy (read pirate) their music to any device and as many people as they want?? A great strategy for the customer who wants free/shared music. Not great news in the age when we're moving from CD storage to digital storage. The strategy is flawed. And a sign of another quick marketing fix by Apple and a desperate recording label. In the end it is a strategy that will drive artists away from the big labels (because they will not be making enough money to stay and will need a "digital revenue strategy"). Great for services like those at the Cellcity that support artists and labels to do digital distribution for themselves with a flexible DRM and pricing policy. Final word..."DRM free", sounds great - It's just not smart.
Posted by dannie francis (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
DRM Free means Free
Couldn't agree with you more Dannie. The real issue here is why hasn't Apple licensed their FairPlay DRM technology to third parties?

It's such a mega oxymoron to have Apple call their DRM technology FairPlay and yet Apple refuses to play fair with the rest of the world.

Microsoft on the other hand has licensed their technology to literally thousands of companies including consumer electronics manufacturers third party portable media player manufacturers, numerous third party appliance and kiosk developers and most of the cell phone manufacturers.

The Apple/EMI strategy here is a scary value proposition for artists who have seen a large spike in revenue related to digital sales.

Removing DRM only makes it easier for this content to be misused. If Apple would just license FairPlay out or support Microsoft's DRM technology, consumers could have true interoperability for the vast majority of content for sale on the Internet.

Christopher Levy
Posted by streamOG (134 comments )
Link Flag
Pirating doesn't exist now?
Does DRM stop pirating right now? No, everyone knows that there are easy ways around DRM. The majority of digital music users don't illegally offer their music to others. For cases like that, DRM is just a hindrance for them. Removing DRM might make more profit for labels and artists. If you are now able to do what you want with music, and do it legally, would you be more inclined to buy music? I would. DRM is a hassle for me. I cannot purchase tunes from Itunes because it won't work with my ZEN Micro. If I reformat my computer or upgrade my hard drive, I need to go to all the different stores I have bought music from and have them reset my licenses. I then need to replay all those songs to re-acquire them. If music stores do not have to have customer support spending time answering phone calls about DRM questions, that will save them money, and then music could be cheaper. DRM does not stop pirating, it never has, and it never will. People in the music business need to embrace that. When music came on tapes, didn't you make mix tapes for your friends? That was illegal. So what is different now?
Don't use the statistic that CD sales have dropped dramatically over the last few years. When CDs came out and dominated the music industry, didn't cassette sales drop? The industry is shifting to digital downloads, and CDs will be phased out, just like records, 8-tracks, and cassettes were. "DRM free" is going to be the way to go.

On another tangent, record labels are killing the profits of artists for the exact reasons you said. They are taking revenues that the artists should be getting and using it to lobby the government to shut down internet radio. Just my two cents.
Posted by edulmes (2 comments )
Link Flag
DRM Free Means I Purchase
It works for the artist because I, and many others, will actually purchase DRM-Free, but would never do so for DRM tracks. As someone who primarily listens to music on my car's MP3 CD player, the option to convert is a must. Having to burn, rip, and rename was a pain.

Purchase habits before DRM-Free iTunes: Only if there were enough good songs on the CD (VERY RARE maybe 2 - 3 per year)

Purchase Habits with DRM-Free iTunes: If I like the track. (MUCH MORE OFTEN, about 100 tracks per year)

So tell me, which is better for both Apple and the artist?
Posted by CagedAnimal (67 comments )
Link Flag
The only thing true about your rant is that it assumes that everyone is a pirate and will pirate as much as they possibly can.

What you neglect to say is that DRM-free means free to use the music you purchased in whatever way you wish. Kind of like when you bought a CD and could play it in a player by any manufacturer - or even a DVD player if you so desired.
I'm guessing that if CD playback had been limited to Phillips and Sony alone, we wouldn't even be talking about that long dead format - like we don't talk about minidisc or DAT.
The closed fairplay model success was a fluke driven entirely by the desire of the people to actually have a legal way of downloading tunes. And pay for them. Which is a huge testament to the fallacy of your argument. If there had been other open venues available at the time Apple would be about as successful as Sony (didn't they try for awhile?) in operating a download store.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
Any evidence?
I think if you read Steve Jobs' original letter explaining his reasoning behind it, you might not make such comments. You see, there already has been, (deep breaths, RIAA-supporters) an open, DRM-free format for years that actually, get ready, lets consumers do whatever they want with it. Believe it or not it's a legal product endorsed by the RIAA and other groups for years. That is of course the humble audio CD. Furthermore because it's digital it can be easily ripped and uploaded onto the internet. Despite all this, artists are still in business, the sky hasn't fallen (despite the PR hype and scare tactics), and the RIAA is still taking respectable amounts of profit away from the artists who actually create the music.

As Jobs said, tracks from audio CDs can be easily pirated on the internet, so it obviously makes little sense to apply special treatment to (official) online sources of music. Besides the problem of treating the customers who actually pay rather than pirate it with an inferior product, it doesn't make much business sense. Since much of this music is available on P2P networks, people buying from iTunes obviously aren't going to stop paying for music since they could have gotten it for free in the first place (it doesn't matter here whether it's because most customers are actually honest, or like you supposedly believe they anyone who likes music is a thief eager to rip off artists but only kept in line by fear of RIAA lawsuits).

It's controversial over how much piracy actually affects artists, but what is almost certain is that groups like the RIAA grossly overstate how much piracy hurts them. They then can justify DRM (it's about control of the product not just immediate sales) and complain to congress to get industry-friendly laws passed. The worst piracy is not because american teens and college students are sharing music with each other, but rather more commercial organized piracy, which is prevalent in places like China and South east asia. Even then, it's questionable how much of a loss this is, since in many cases (either a teenager or a Chinese worker making a dollar a day) they wouldn't buy the product at the normal price anyway, and when digital products are traded they sometimes result in additional exposure and thus sales. I'm not at all saying this makes it okay, or that piracy or any form of theft is justified, far from it, however I don't buy the hype that piracy is the end of music (and also, if anything is hurting the music industry, it's rather music priced much too high for the quality and bad public relations since many now see the RIAA as synonymous with evil), and that the solution is not to treat the honest, paying customers as criminals.
Posted by jdbwar07 (150 comments )
Link Flag
ACC only?
What gives? I still have to convert the files to MP3 or Ogg Vorbis... I just don't get apple.
Posted by mattumanu (599 comments )
Reply Link Flag
AAC makes business sense
AAC take us less space on the server, less bandwidth on the download. The songs are encoded at a higher rate which would result in an even more bloated MP3 file than the original DRM versions. Thus it makes sense that Apple uses a more efficient format to save costs.

If things were done right for the consumer, the format would be a lossless one, and the consumer could conver to whatever lossy format they desired that month.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
Does that include video selections?
I seem to have mega problems downloading videos. I find the best luck on streaming videos from my pc. I found one site that seems to have every video I've wanted to see and it doesn't take much space to have their player up on my desktop or to download the actual application. Plus I can upload music from my band to it and save that to my favorites. I have not found a cheap way to do that on another site that also allows me to listen to the same uploaded songs for free and to share with my fans at the same time. Fill me in if you find something else! Also check out that site it is - Seriously the best thing I've found on the web for free effortless music!
Posted by AlmostFamousAlmost (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Try this....
You could just try moving the songs you don't wish to upgrade out of your library. If Apple doesn't create the list from your purchase history, it should work.

I never really purchased that many DRM songs from iTunes and haven't tried it, so I am curious if it works myself.
Posted by CagedAnimal (67 comments )
Reply Link Flag
name me stupid
Unfortunately we're stuck with the "MP3 player" name even though
most of the devices are quite capable of playing other formats.
Posted by sjkx (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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