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iTunes Scraps Copy Protection, For A Price

Apple and the three largest music labels didn't take any half steps in walking away from copy-protection software at Macworld 2009 Tuesday.

Apple could have announced, as expected, simply that the iTunes Store would begin offering songs stripped of digital rights management from now on. Instead, the country's largest music retailer secured licenses that will enable users to upgrade their existing DRM-wrapped music and strip it of the controversial software, but it's going to cost you.

An Apple spokesman offered more details: Users of iTunes can now upgrade their music libraries with a click of a button. For and additional 30 cents per song, a user can receive a DRM-free version of their existing tracks at a 256-kbps bitrate.

Click here for more Macworld Expo coverage from CNET News.
Starting Tuesday, Apple will offer 8 million DRM-free songs and another 2 million by April. The hold-up for the remaining songs is due to licensing issues, according to my sources.

I'm not going to gripe about that. Those kind of details work themselves out and it's impressive that Apple and the major labels -- Universal, Sony BMG, and Warner -- worked out a deal for the 8 million.

With the move, Apple's iTunes is also making its strongest foray into interoperability. From now on, iTunes' music should play on any digital player and this means iTunes users don't have to worry about their music libraries being locked out of some future digital music player.

Apple had already offered DRM-free music from EMI, the fourth-largest music label, at a higher bit rate for a premium price.
By Greg Sandoval

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