EMI and Apple drive a wedge into DRM

EmigreaterchoiceI was listening to the live webcast from EMI and Apple at lunchtime today announcing the availability of EMI’s music catalogue without digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

The first outlet where you will be able to buy such DRM-free music will be Apple’s iTunes store.

What this represents is an evolution of the current business model where your only legal choice has been to buy music online in a proprietary format with restrictions on what you can do with that music.

Now you have another choice – restriction-free music that’s better quality than the protected alternative that will play on any computer and on any digital music player, which of course carries a price premium. So in the UK, this means 99 pence per track for the new offering compared to 79 pence for the current offering.

So if being able to legally copy your music to different devices is important to you (what EMI and Apple call “interoperability”), you’ll likely be happy to pay the premium price. If not, you’ll continue with the current model.

As EMI describes it in their press release:

[…] EMI expects that consumers will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free downloads from a variety of digital music stores within the coming weeks, with each retailer choosing whether to sell downloads in AAC, WMA, MP3 or other unprotected formats of their choice. Music fans will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free digital music for personal use, and listen to it on a wide range of digital music players and music-enabled phones.

While this is a pretty radical move, it isn’t by any means the end of DRM as some media have been speculating prior to today’s announcement. No other major record label has taken such a step, at least not yet.

But it surely is a clear sign to the big labels that the days are numbered for the present blanket restrictions on what consumers can do with the music they legally purchase.

Plenty of media analysis already.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.