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EMI Considers Pulling the Plug on DRM

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Earlier this week, Steve Jobs wrote an open letter in which he criticized the major record labels for demanding stringent copy-protection technology that limits the flexibility of the music to be played across different device platforms.

Representatives from Warner have rebuffed Jobs’ assertion that the elimination of DRM would bolster the online music market, citing potential privacy concerns.

EMI, however, is rumored to be looking at ways to unlock the DRM on its musical catalogue.

This piece in the Wall Street Journal documents the theory behind such a move, and the possible ramifications that could ensue:

The idea is that removing such barriers will help boost digital-music sales, because consumers would be able to play music purchased from any online store on any digital music device. Currently, for example, music purchased at Apple’s iTunes Store can only be played on the company’s iPod device, a problem that has caused much griping from record companies and competing music services.

It has also caused much griping from yours truly in efforts to take my expansive digital music collection and implement it across different hardware platforms. Since Apple has neglected to release an iTunes distribution for Linux, mp3s are my only recourse. I’m not the only one who operates within this, or similar circumstances with OS compatibility issues and device woes.

Josh Goldman at CrunchGear believes that hope springs eternal with the news of EMI exploring the option of removing DRM:

The fact that EMI is holding talks with several online retailers is a huge step forward, meaning that some day, I might not have to download an album, burn it to a CD and rip it back as MP3s in order to listen to it on any device I want.

Finally, Jeremiah Foster takes a glance at what to expect from a potential future where the record labels embrace a DRM free environment:

We should look for a couple of things:

1. Will digital downloads take-off if they are not limited to playing on specific players?
2. Will piracy significantly change?
3. Will another music download site threaten iTunes dominance?
4. Is this viral? Will DRM-less movies be next?

I look forward to seeing what happens, largely because we will get to see how corporate America views their customers. If they see that an easy to use web site with an appropriately priced product is a viable business model, maybe, just maybe, they will start to see the internet as something positive and not merely a thieves’ bazaar.

For the sake of consumers everywhere, I hope the other record labels follow EMIs lead.

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EMI Considers Pulling the Plug on DRM
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