EMI, Apple to start offering DRM-free music?

— 1:06 AM on April 2, 2007

British record label EMI plans to hold a media event on Monday with Apple CEO Steve Jobs as a "special guest." The label hasn't revealed what the event will be about, but the Wall Street Journal reports that it has heard (sub. required) from people "familiar with the matter" that EMI will announce plans to sell a significant portion of its music catalog on Apple's iTunes Store with no digital rights management (DRM) protection.

The move wouldn't come out of the blue. Apple CEO Steve Jobs posted an open letter calling for the end of DRM on Apple's website in February, and the New York Times reported shortly afterward that EMI had been in talks with Apple and other online music vendors to sell a large part of its music without DRM protection (although we later heard other rumors that said EMI had broken off those talks and planned to stick with DRM.) According to the Wall Street Journal, EMI did indeed shelve plans to sell DRM-free music—but only temporarily so, because iTunes competitors refused to offer the label enough cash to offset its potential losses from the move. However, after "months of private discussions," the Wall Street Journal says EMI does indeed plan to sell DRM-free music.

This news may be music to the ears of pretty much anyone who doesn't work in the record industry—and even some who do—but the BBC has a conflicting report that says EMI's announcement on Monday won't have to do with DRM at all. Instead, the British news corporation speculates that EMI may simply announce plans to make music from the Beatles available on the iTunes Store. Either that, or the announcement will have something to do with the iPhone, the BBC says.

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