Apple and EMI agree on DRM-free music

2 Apr 2007

Apple and record label EMI have struck a landmark deal whereby EMI’s entire digital catalogue of music will be available for purchase free of DRM (digital rights management), albeit at a higher price of €1.29.

In addition, iTunes customers will be able to upgrade their entire library of all previously purchased EMI songs with one-click for 30c a song.

The move comes just two months after Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrote an open letter on DRM, entitled ‘Thoughts on Music’, where he argued that DRM doesn’t work. Jobs argued that if DRM requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. He said this can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.

“Convincing them [the big four record labels] to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly,” Jobs said in the letter at the time.

He explained that in order for Apple to ensure that all the big four record labels – Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI – would allow their music to be sold on iTunes, Apple had to agree to strict DRM guidelines.

Today, Apple said that iTunes will continue to offer its entire catalogue of over five million songs in the same versions – 128Kbps AAC encoding with DRM – at the standard price of 99c a song, alongside the DRM-free but higher-quality versions when available.

With DRM-free music from the EMI catalogue, iTunes customers will have the ability to download tracks from their favourite EMI artists without any usage restrictions that limit the types of devices or number of computers that purchased songs can be played on.

“We are going to give iTunes customers a choice – the current versions of our songs for the same 99c price, or new DRM-free versions of the same songs with even higher audio quality and the security of interoperability for just 30c more,” announced Jobs.

“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.”

DRM-free songs purchased from the iTunes Store will be encoded in AAC at 256Kbps, twice the current bit rate of 128Kbps, and will play on all iPods, Mac or Windows computers, Apple TVs and soon iPhones, as well as many other digital music players.

“EMI and iTunes are once again teaming up to move the digital music industry forward by giving music fans higher quality audio that is virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings, with no usage restrictions on the music they love from their favourite artists,” said Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group.

By John Kennedy