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Apple launches DRM-free iTunes store

Apple iTunes songs lose digital rights management
The Apple logo

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Apple has revealed plans to remove DRM restrictions from its catalogue of ten million music tracks on its iTunes store at the Macworld Expo 2009 show held in the US.

The move will see Apple make eight million tracks DRM-free from today, with the remaining two million tracks DRM free by April 1, according to the company. DRM – which stands for digital rights management – limits the number of times a purchased song could be shared on other iPods or PCs.

Apple says that all four major music labels – Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI, along with thousands of independent music labels – will sell music in Apple’s iTunes Plus format, which comes without DRM restrictions.

iTunes Plus is DRM-free

Apple says iTunes Plus will also offer high-quality 256kbps AAC encoding that it claims is virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings.

The consumer electronics company also launched the iTunes store service for 3G networks – allowing Apple iPhone 3G users to download tracks on the go. Songs purchased from iTunes over 3G will be synced to a user’s PC when they next connect their iPhone 3G, according to Apple.

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iTunes will also see a pricing change, says Apple.

The company says that depending on what music labels charge Apple, songs on iTunes will be priced at three different price points: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29. UK pricing has yet to be announced.

iTunes one-click update

The online music store will be updated to offer a one-click option to upgrade a user’s current iTunes library to the new DRM-free format, although Apple says it will cost 30 cents per track – around 21 pence.

‘It’s good news for iPod and iPhone users that Apple is finally removing DRM from its online tracks,’ says Which? technology editor Matthew Bath. ‘However, other online music stores have been offering this for a while, such as, and it will be important that Apple’s new variable pricing is good value.’

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