iTunes preparing to open up?

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 iTunes preparing to open up?

Is Apple about to unwrap an early Christmas present for its users by unwrapping the DRM from its iTunes store songs?

Rumours scurrying around the interweb today suggest that December 9th will be the day that Apple starts to fight back against its legion of DRM free competitors, having spent recent months engaged in hot debate with record labels about how exactly it's going to manage that feat legally.

The move would be great for consumers, but of unclear benefit to Apple beyond catching up with the market. Apple benefits from the DRM lock-in, where buyers of songs from the iTunes store can only play those songs back within iTunes or on iPods - thus ensuring the vitality of Steve Jobs' walled garden. Selling songs without DRM will allow users to move outside the confines of the Apple bubble.

However, the company has had its hand forced, to a degree, by competitors who have embraced DRM-less music as a way of competing with Apple. Last week, Amazon launched its MP3 store with great fanfare, offering DRM-free versions of top ten albums. Despite the fact most users will never actually move out of the Apple world, Amazon managed to create a point of difference on the basis that its music was more free and open than Apple's.

From the point of view of the labels, encouraging anybody and everybody to compete with Apple on the music sales front has been their modus operandi for the past year, as the Cappuccino boys swiftly move to dominance - and closer to a dangerous near-monopoly on cheap and cheerful music downloads. However, it seems DRM-free music - easily copyable and piracy prone - might be the price the industry will have to pay for breaking the Apple stranglehold.

Will today be DRM emancipation day for millions of iTunes customers? Only the passing of the hours will reveal all.
Got a news tip for our journalists? Share it with us anonymously here. (c) 2010 Incisive Media

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