Apple has confirmed that EMI Music’s entire digital catalogue of music will be available for purchase DRM-free from the iTunes Store worldwide in May.

Ever since invitations went out to today’s event, speculation in the media and online has centred around two possibilities: the Beatles catalogue coming to the iTunes Music Store, or EMI ditching DRM (digital rights management).

But there was no sign of The Beatles at EMI’s London headquarters this lunchtime, with Apple focusing on the hot-topic among music fans – copy-free music allowing iTunes customers to download tracks from EMI artists without any usage restrictions. This means there'll be no limit on the types of devices or number of computers that purchased songs can be played on.

Apple said DRM-free tracks from EMI will be offered at 256kbps AAC encoding and for just 99 pence per song. iTunes users will also be able to upgrade their entire library of all previously purchased EMI content to the higher quality DRM-free versions for 20p per song.

”We are going to give iTunes customers a choice — the current versions of our songs for the same 79 pence price, or new DRM-free versions of the same songs with even higher audio quality and the security of interoperability for just 20 pence more”, said Apple boss Steve Jobs at the London event. “We think our customers are going to love this, and we expect to offer more than half of the songs on iTunes in DRM-free versions by the end of this year”.

EMI's artists include some of the biggest names in music both past and present: The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Janet Jackson, Robbie Williams, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, The Rolling Stones, Al Green, Moby and Queen.