DRM war: EMI sale could lead to DRM u-turn

Warner has attempted to merge with EMI a few times in recent years, both times the deal fell through

Warner Music has made a renewed bid to buy British Record label EMI . If successful, the deal would unite two of the four big record labels to become one larger super label, leaving Sony BMG and Universal below on a second tier above the independent labels.

The proposed merger could spell the end for EMI's plans to scrap digital rights management (DRM) protection on its back catalogue of music files.

It's the latest chapter in the on-going DRM debate which has caused so much controversy in the world of music during the last month. It all started when Steve Jobs wrote in an open letter to the music industry that he felt DRM copy protection on music should be scrapped, after which EMI and Warner came out fairly aggressively on opposing sides.

EMI went along with Jobs' comments, and was forthcoming with its plans to sell its own music on online stores DRM-free. Warner on the other hand categorically rebuffed the anti-DRM statements.

Its CEO Edgar Bronfman said at the time, "We advocate the continued use of DRM. The notion that music does not deserve the same protection as software, film, video games or other intellectual property, simply because there is an unprotected legacy product in the physical world, is completely without logic or merit."

If Warner is successful in acquiring EMI and its catalogue of bands, it would follow that the DRM-killing initiatives currently being plotted at Abbey Road Studios will be sentenced to death, effectively killing off any chance that online stores such as iTunes and Rhapsody might begin selling DRM-free EMI MP3 tracks to the masses.

James Rivington

James was part of the TechRadar editorial team for eight years up until 2015 and now works in a senior position for TR's parent company Future. An experienced Content Director with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), E-commerce Optimization, Journalism, Digital Marketing, and Social Media. James can do it all.