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Ddawg
5th January 2007, 00:39
Major Labels Offering Unrestricted MP3s
Tim Gray, newsfactor.com

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nf/20061207/tc_nf/48594

For years, record labels have been reluctant to release music in unrestricted MP3 formats, but now some music companies are reversing course on the copy protections and playback restrictions originally designed to reduce piracy.

Several companies are getting together to gauge how much demand there is for music files that can be played on any digital music player. Currently, files protected with a Windows Media digital-rights management (DRM) format, for example, cannot be played on Apple's market-leading iPod.

And files purchased through iTunes, and protected with Apple's DRM system, called FairPlay, cannot be easily converted for use on a non-iPod player.

But music stored in raw MP3 formats can be used on any type of player, whether iPod, Zune, or Zen.

Changing the Game

"This could change the whole way music is distributed," said Zippy Aima, an analyst with Frost and Sullivan.

"There would be no more hardware restrictions because of the DRM software included with the music files," she noted.

Several independent labels and artists have released their tunes in unrestricted MP3 formats in the past, and there are been services, like eMusic, that have offered all-you-can-eat MP3s for quite some time.

But major record labels have been, for the most part, reluctant to offer their tunes in unrestricted formats, citing the liklihood that the music could end up on file-sharing networks.

Yahoo Music, Others

Yahoo Music only this year joined the raw-MP3 club, releasing Jessica Simpson's song "A Public Affair" for $1.99. In addition, EMI has released singles by Norah Jones and Relient K on Yahoo for 99 cents.

And earlier this summer, in fact, Hollywood Records released an entire album by pop singer Jesse McCartney in the MP3 format.

"They're still looking at it as an experiment but the labels have really come a long way in terms of wanting to see how this works for them," said a Yahoo spokesperson.