US retail chain Wal-Mart has become the latest exponent of the digital rights management (DRM) free music movement and will challenge both Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s forthcoming digital music service.
Wal-Mart’s new online music service will sell thousands of MP3 songs, including tracks from Universal and EMI’s catalogues, free of any restricting software or copy protection.
The new format will allow buyers to play the music they want on any device including iPods and Microsoft’s Zune media player.
The company is selling DRM-free music on its website at 94 cents per track and US$9.22 per album.
The move by Wal-Mart is expected to be followed by online retailer Amazon which is readying its online music service and in recent months signed a deal with EMI to sell DRM-free music.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs earlier this year wrote an impassioned paper urging the case for DRM-free music. However, in recent months Universal opened up its library to DRM free downloads over a six-month test period but left Apple in the dark, indicating a growing strain between the two companies.
Earlier this year EMI said it would make its entire digital catalogue available through Apple’s iTune’s library without DRM protection.
Sony BMG and Warner Music are also exploring similar strategies, but are slow to make decisions due to concerns that selling DRM-free tracks could increase piracy and erode revenues.,
Apple, in recent months, launched iTunes-Plus, its own DRM-free music download service.
By John Kennedy
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