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Music giant EMI to continue with DRM-free plan

DRM-free music scheme unaffected by buyout

Some questions have been raised concerning the future of music giant EMI, after Terra Firma's $6.4bn purchase of the company. But one thing that's unlikely to be affected by EMI's changing ownership is its decision to offer DRM-free digital music tracks via the iTunes Music Store.

Last month, Apple and EMI announced that the iTunes Music Store would offer EMI's entire music catalogue without any DRM (digital-rights management) restrictions. The tracks would sell for $1.29 each - 30 cents more than the standard iTunes download - and come encoded at a higher bitrate. EMI's DRM-free offerings were slated to appear this month.

Neither EMI nor Apple would comment on whether the record label's purchase this week might delay the arrival of DRM-free music at iTunes. But one industry analyst expects the launch to happen as scheduled.

"EMI made its decision to sidestep DRM in part to demonstrate its forward-thinking strategy, so potential purchasers would see greater value in the company," said Aram Sinnreich, founder and managing partner of Radar Research, a Los Angeles media consulting firm. "They can't renege on the deals very easily without the value of the company plummeting."

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Sinnreich believes EMI made a good decision to offer its catalogue without DRM restrictions. The question now is whether new owners Terra Firma will keep the forward-thinking strategies the record label has developed over the past year. While Sinnreich believes it will, that is the one part of the deal that remains unanswered.

"It's the only way for record companies to have a role in the emerging digital marketplace," said Sinnreich.


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