Amazon launches DRM-free MP3 store

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Amazon.com Inc is taking on Apple's iTunes with the debut of its public beta of Amazon MP3, a new digital music download store with a catalog of MP3 music downloads free of digital rights management (DRM).

Amazon MP3 has more than 2 million songs from more than 180,000 artists represented by about 20,000 major and independent labels including EMI and Universal.

"We very much believe in giving our customers choice and we feel that this is a great addition to our CD business," said Pete Baltaxe, director of digital music at Amazon. "It makes us more of a music destination."

Every song and album on Amazon MP3 is available in the MP3 format without digital rights management software. Most songs are priced from 89 cents to 99 cents and most albums are priced from $5.99 to $9.99.

Earlier this year Apple CEO Steve Jobs stressed the importance of record labels adopting the DRM-free MP3 format, claiming that consumers wanted the flexibility of transferring content across multiple devices. The major record companies have been slow to adopt the DRM free format, concerned about piracy.

The Warner Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which is owned by Sony and Bertelsmann, have not agreed to sell music on Amazon MP3. While Universal and EMI both adopted the technology earlier this year, they have made only parts of their catalogs available without copy protection.

"We are committed to the MP3 DRM-free format, because we think it is the most customer centric experience and it is the most compatible for consumers to use across devices," Baltaxe added.

Every song on Amazon MP3 is encoded at 256 kilobits per second, which gives customers high audio quality at a manageable file size.

Customers can purchase downloads using Amazon 1-Click shopping and then add the MP3s to their iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries via the Amazon MP3 Downloader.

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