Napster challenges iTunes with DRM-free music store

20 May 2008

Former peer-to-peer file sharing site has today opened the world’s largest DRM-free (digital rights management) digital music download store, which is set to rival Apple iTunes with over six million songs on offer.

While the iTunes store also has over six million songs in its back catalogue, not all of these are DRM-free. In fact, the majority are digitally restricted using the FairPlay DRM system, meaning they are tied to Apple’s iPod and can only be shared across a certain number of computers.

Napster’s MP3 music offering will be compatible with most media devices, computers and mobile phones, including the iPhone.

Prior to this, Napster has sold music on the basis of an all-you-can-eat monthly subscription, which allowed customers to listen to as much streaming audio as they wanted but did not allow for transferring this music to an MP3 player.

Like iTunes, Napster has priced individual songs at 99c each, while full albums are available from US$9.95. However, iTunes customers who have already purchased albums prior to the introduction of some DRM-free ones in their place, have to pay €3 to ‘upgrade’ to these.

“We’re now moving from under the DRM cloud. Now consumers can use Napster with any device,” said Chris Gorog, chief executive of Napster.

While Apple’s iTunes store has surpassed both digital and physical outlets as the leading music store in the US, having sold over four billion songs since its launch in 2003, Napster currently has over 750,000 subscribers.

By Marie Boran