iTunes ignored as Universal unlocks music

10 Aug 2007

Universal Music, with artists on its books like Amy Winehouse, has decided to remove the digital rights management (DRM) on its MP3s, giving consumers the option to make as many copies of songs as they want.

This DRM-free offering is initially for a few months as part of an experiment on Universal’s part to test the waters on music sales and digital piracy.

DRM protected songs mean that the buyer doesn’t really own that song but a limited amount of copies of it, akin to owning a CD which you can only play in five different CD players.

This decision closely follows EMI’s recent DRM-free catagloue, but is only tied into specific distributors: the artists’ website, Google, Amazon, Wal-mart and Real’s Rhapsody.

Apple’s iTunes has been left completely in the dark, another sign of strained relations between the two companies after Universal’s decision last month not to renew its long-term year contract with iTunes, instead choosing to keep it on a tenuous month-to-month basis.

Universal has stated that this decision was made on the basis of using iTunes as a control group; to see if Universal sales on iTunes suffer while downloads on other online services like Amazon rise.

This could be seen as another step for Universal in undermining iTunes’ market dominance given that Apple CEO Steve Jobs promised back in May that over half the songs on iTunes will be DRM-free by the end of the year and one third of its music content comes from Universal.

By Marie Boran