EMI has taken a huge step forward in the fight against
digital rights management (DRM). The company announced today that its entire
digital music library will be available with higher quality audio and will also
be free of DRM.
The company first began tinkering with
DRM-free music files in early December. At that time, EMI offered DRM-free
music tracks by Lily Allen, Norah Jones and Relient K though Yahoo! Music.
Soon after Apple CEO Steve Jobs made
his bid for a DRM-free music world, EMI once again batted around the idea
of expanding its use of DRM-free music. Anonymous executives
revealed that EMI was in talks with Apple, Microsoft, Real Networks and
Yahoo! to provide unprotected music files.
Today's announcement could set the ball rolling for other
companies to jump on the DRM-free bandwagon. "Our goal is to give
consumers the best possible digital music experience. By providing DRM-free
downloads, we aim to address the lack of interoperability which is frustrating
for many music fans. We believe that offering consumers the opportunity to buy
higher quality tracks and listen to them on the device or platform of their
choice will boost sales of digital music," said EMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli.
Seeing as how Steve Jobs has been one of the champions of
DRM-free music, it's no surprise that he also had commentary on EMI's decision.
"Selling digital music DRM-free is the right step forward for the music
industry," said Jobs. "EMI has been a great partner for iTunes and is
once again leading the industry as the first major music company to offer its
entire digital catalogue DRM-free."
iTunes users will be able to purchase unprotected AAC format
music files at 256 kbps (current music files are encoded at 128 kbps) for $1.29
a track in May from iTunes. Complete albums will also be available DRM-free,
but will not feature higher price tags. Customers who have already purchased
DRM-enabled music tracks from iTunes will be able to upgrade to the
higher-quality, DRM-free versions for $0.30 per track. Tracks which still
feature DRM will continue to be made available at $0.99 each.
In addition, EMI will make its music videos available on
iTunes free of DRM. The prices remain unchanged for these files.
“We think our customers are going to love this, and we expect
to offer more than half of the songs on iTunes in DRM-free versions by the end
of this year,” said Jobs.