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Apple, EMI Begin DRM-Free Era

Apple, Inc. has taken another bold step toward ridding the music industry of the much-maligned digital rights management software hated by millions of users worldwide. On Wednesday, the iTunes owner removed the security software from MP3s belonging to the record label EMI, which represents one of the big four recording companies. Combined, these account for some 70% of the world's music. ITunes users now have the option of buying DRM-free songs from EMI for 30 cents more.

The move has the tech press speculating that this could be the first major crack in the DRM wall; it marks the first time consumers can purchase (as opposed to steal) DRM-free music. It also makes Apple files compatible with music devices other than iPod, which is a long-standing gripe among Apple competitors. Moreover, European regulators that want Apple to open iTunes up to third-party software, may now cut the iPod maker some slack. Many critics feel record labels and music services providers have to move in this direction to stand a chance of competing with music piracy.

However, at 30 cents more per song, Greg Scholl, CEO of The Orchard, a music distribution and marketing company, thinks: "The price Apple is charging is still too high and will probably inhibit [sales]." That said, he adds, "There isn't enough data to know what the right pricing is or how to market digital music. At least Apple is trying something new."

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