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EMI could back plans to scrap DRM

iTunes could be destined to sell protection-free MP3s if EMI and other labels make deal with retailers

British record label EMI could be planning to go along with Steve Jobs' masterplan to scrap DRM protection on digital downloads. According to the New York Times , some unknown executives within EMI have revealed that these measures are being seriously considered.

Steve Jobs wrote in an open letter to the music industry on Tuesday that he felt DRM copy protection on music sold on iTunes and other stores should be scrapped.

"In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat," he said.

"If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music."

Cautious labels

The reason that all legal digital music sales have to carry some form of copy protection is that the big four record labels - Universal, EMI, Sony BMG and Warner - insist on protecting their content for fear of massive piracy.

But many people feel that DRM protection could be hindering music sales. The various stores all use different security formats, and most media players and MP3 players cannot play all of them, which is very inconvenient for the end-user.

If EMI does release its catalogue for protection-free download, it would be the first of the four big labels to do so, and would most likely pave the way for the other three to follow suit, along with tens of thousands of indie labels.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that EMI, which releases music from bands including The Beatles and Coldplay, spoke to digital music retailers back in December about a new DRM-free retail strategy. Apparently, EMI could invite digital retailers to make payments in advance relating to projected music sales, enabling the label to cover its own back.

EMI, along with other record companies, was unavailable for comment this afternoon, but it has been reported that Warner Music Group has condemned any plans to scrap copy protection on music files.

James Rivington

James has been working with TechRadar for over 12 years and is now the Global Editor-in-Chief of eCommerce at TR and its sister sites including PC Gamer and That means he looks after buying guides and deals pages as well as all of the nifty price comparison tools we use to help readers find the best deals on the coolest products.