In a significant announcement at the Mac World show in San Francisco yesterday Apple said that will make all songs in its market-leading iTunes store available without anticopying restrictions and it will be dropping the price on some songs to 69 cents. ITunes is moving to a tiered pricing model and will begin selling songs without any restrictions at three prices: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29. The new pricing will begin in April.
As part of this change Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group will begin selling music through iTunes without digital rights management software, or DRM. The fourth major label, EMI, was already doing so. By comparison Amazon’s MP3 store started selling DRM-free music downloads in 2007 and has been selling DRM-free tracks from all the major labels for over a year. Other iTunes rivals have also offered DRM-free songs and albums in recent years.
Copy Protection and Digital Rights Management
Copy protection or “digital rights management” (DRM) has been a point of debate and frustration for users for some time. The software restrictions were originally enacted as an anti-piracy measure driven by the major record labels. While significantly limiting a user’s ability to transfer, make copies, or share music they had purchased, DRM also created significant headaches for users. With DRM copy protection moving music from a computer to other devices was often challenging or even impossible.
In the new iTunes pricing structure the record companies will choose the song prices, a significant change, since all iTunes songs previously sold for 99 cents. According to initial reports a majority of songs will drop to 69 cents beginning in April, while the biggest hits and newest songs will be priced at $1.29. Others songs that are moderately popular will remain at 99 cents.
Upgrading to DRM-Free Songs
Apple also announced that customers would be able to pay a one-time fee to strip copying restrictions from music they have already purchased on iTunes. The “upgrade” fee is set at 30 cents a song or 30 percent of the album price. This is sure to create further discussion from existing customers who want to upgrade their entire existing iTunes Library to DRM-free versions of the same songs. It appears that users will be able to do this conveniently with one click. But at an added cost for songs and albums that users have already paid for previously. Hmmm…