Sony and Napster shake up digital downloads


8 Jan 2008

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Following in the footsteps of Universal, Warner and EMI, Sony BMG has decided to free some of its music downloads of digital rights restrictions, while music subscription site Napster is planning on selling its downloads as restriction-free MP3s from the second quarter of 2008.

This now means that all four of the major record labels as well as two of the most popular music download services iTunes and Napster are essentially phasing out digital rights management (DRM), a tool that was thought to be the saviour of the music industry in the face of piracy.

Both Sony BMG and Napster’s music downloads will be able to be played on almost all MP3 players as well as music-enabled mobile phones.

“As there is now a critical mass of support for MP3s, we are very pleased to announce we will soon offer our customers the user-friendly MP3 file format throughout our product line-up and provide the top-tier content our users expect from Napster,” said Napster chairman and CEO Chris Gorog.

“The ubiquity and cross-platform compatibility of MP3s should create a more level playing field for music services and hardware providers, and result in greater ease of use and broader adoption of digital music.”

In order to avail of DRM-free content from Sony, music fans will have to buy a Platinum MusicPass, or digital album card, available from Musicpass.com. Bonus material will be included on many of the available albums as an incentive.

Jennifer Johnston Schaidler, vice-president of music at Best Buy, one of the retailers carrying these cards, said, “Physical products like this will be another way for Best Buy to deliver music and entertainment to our customers in a manner that suits their needs, whether it is an impulse purchase, gift, or great collectible.

“Digital music doesn’t need to be restricted to online environments. We look forward to learning how physical products can help grow the digital marketplace.”

By Marie Boran

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