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iTunes and DRM-free music explained

What you need to know about DRM-free iTunes

iTunes is finally selling DRM-free music, but how will these changes affect us? We explain all

Finally, DRM-free (digital rights management-free) music via iTunes is with us. Customers can download tracks from EMI artists without any usage restrictions.

So, there'll be no limit on the types of devices or number of computers that purchased songs can be played on. Copy-free iTunes tracks have been a hot topic since Steve Jobs announced in February that DRM-free tracks were "clearly the best alternative for consumers" and something Apple "would embrace in a heartbeat".

Not everyone agreed, with notable objections from Warner Music chief executive Edgar Bronfman when we covered the story (tinyurl.com/2wwu71).

Nonetheless, EMI revealed that it was already working on DRM-free music and that early feedback on its trials had been very positive. In April this year, the DRM-free concept had turned from pipedream to reality.

The EMI songs will be added to the list of copy-protected songs that iTunes currently offers, which play only via iTunes or on iPod music players. They'll also cost more than their DRM-protected equivalents.

What's in it for Apple and EMI?

More money, for starters, as the DRM-free music costs almost one-third more. Plus EMI says it sees the deal as a strategic move to be a big player in the rapidly expanding digital marketplace (the record company could use the boost to its business, given recent profit troubles).

Analysts say it's no coincidence that Apple is making this move, as consumer groups in Europe have criticised it for making iTunes tracks compatible only with the iPod.

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