Universal Music sells downloads DRM-free

Universal Music Group - the home for numerous artists including Amy Winehouse - is to sell downloads DRM-free

Universal Music Group is to sell its music online without copy-protection DRM, allowing downloaders to listen to music on any device and copy it freely.

Universal Music has said it will be selling music DRM-free through a number of existing music download sites - although not Apple's iTunes Store - until January at the least. DRM-free tracks will be playable on a wide range of MP3 players, including iPods. Universal Music has a huge roster of artists from Amy Winehouse and Stevie Wonder to 50 Cent and Bon Jovi,

Universal Music executives will be evaluating the impact on digital sales of selling tracks DRM-free, studying consumer demand and possible effects of online piracy. Not all of its catalogue will be immediately available in the trial period. Sites taking part in the Universal Music DRM-free trial includes Google , Wal-Mart and Amazon.com . Tracks are expected to sell for $0.99 each.

Possible online piracy

The move by Universal Music is a shift away from the standard music industry practice of using copy-protection technology for digital downloads to combat online piracy. It reflects an ongoing debate about whether copy-protection is counter-productive. Some argue it limits the take-up of digital downloading by restricting how consumers use tracks they have paid for.

Earlier this year, EMI Music became the first major music label to open up its catalogue for DRM-free track downloads, selling higher quality DRM-free tracks at a premium price on iTunes Store.