EMI bought out; good news for DRM-free music?

— 11:28 AM on May 23, 2007

Just over a month and a half after announcing plans to make its music catalog available online free of digital rights management protection, EMI has agreed to a takeover by a private equity firm. As PC World reports, the lucky buyer is a company called Terra Firma, which will pocket the British record label for £3.2 billion ($6.36 billion). Neither Terra Firma nor EMI have expressed what the buyout means in terms of EMI's DRM-free commitments, but this is better news than it sounds: the Warner Music Group was one of the bidders hoping to acquire EMI, and Warner is known for its strong pro-DRM stance.

EMI's portfolio includes music from artists like The Beach Boys, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Janet Jackson, Pink Floyd, Queen, Robbie Williams, and The Rolling Stones, and that music is now likelier to stay DRM-free. If EMI doesn't change its mind, analysts believe other major labels—including Warner—will attempt to ditch DRM, as well. In fact, Apple is presumed to be negotiating DRM-free agreements with other labels as we speak. Such agreements would fit in with Apple CEO Steve Jobs' statement back in April that he expected half the music on the iTunes Store to be DRM-free by the end of the year.

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