iTunes Store Dropping DRM, Varying Prices

Earlier this week at Macworld, Apple made a stir by announcing that its iTunes Store will soon be selling content without DRM (digital rights management) restrictions, and further, will be altering its uniform 99-cent price structure.

DRM is technology that controls the usage of digital media or devices that, for example, limits viewings or copies of media files.

Dropping this restriction can be seen as good news for music consumers, except perhaps those who have already compiled large DRM-protected collections and will be forced to pay 30 cents per track for what Apple calls “iTunes Plus”. 

Further, eliminating DRM does not mean that iTunes will be providing files in MP3 format. Apple will continue to provide AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) downloads, encoded at 256 kbps, which the company states it prefers for sound fidelity and size reasons.

Eight million songs from all of the major labels will soon be available DRM-free, with ten million available by the end of the this business quarter, according to Apple.

The iTunes 99-cent uniform price will be split into three points – 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29 – expected to be in effect this coming April. Initial reports indicate that major labels Sony, Warner, Universal and EMI will dictate the specifics of the new price points.

And, Apple also announced that all downloads will be available through 3G (essentially wide-area cellular telephone networks), in addition to the current online and WiFi options. 

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