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EMI opens DRM-free MP3 files

EMI Music is introducing a music file format that is free of digital rights management restrictions. This comes more than a month after Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrote an open letter to encourage music labels to adopt an MP3 file format without copyright protection.

The new MP3s, which are also of a higher sound quality with less compression, will be available in addition to the standard locked files at a premium rate per song.

“Our goal is to give consumers the best possible digital music experience,” said Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group, London. “By providing DRM-free downloads, we aim to address the lack of interoperability which is frustrating to many music fans. We believe that offering consumers the opportunity to buy higher quality tracks and listen to them on the device or platform of their choice will boost sales of digital music.

Apple’s iTunes Store is the first online store to receive EMI’s new downloads. Apple will sell both the new premium AAC files at $1.29 a song and the standard format at $.99 a song. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on iTunes will automatically be sold in the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price.

Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for 30 cents per track. All EMI music videos will also be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free with no change in price.

EMI is the first major label to make DRM-free music files available to its entire catalog.

“Removing DRM will double or triple the size of the music download business,” said Bob Kohn, CEO of Royalty Share, San Diego. “Removing DRM eliminates one of the greatest impediments to the growth of the digital download business, which is the incompatibility of files purchased on iTunes with non iTunes-compatible music players.”

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