DRM will be a hot topic in Apple negotiations

Next month, Apple will start selling music from EMI—one of the world's "big four" record labels—on the iTunes Store without digital rights management protection. According to Reuters, the move may end up starting a chain reaction that will push the other three major record labels to follow suit. The news agency says Apple will start iTunes-related contract negotiations with Universal, Sony BMG, and Warner at the end of this month. Apple's fixed pricing scheme may be among the talking points in the negotiations as it has been in the past, but analysts quoted by Reuters believe the issue of dropping DRM will take precedence over other topics because of the recent EMI deal.

Officially, the three other labels are "only experimenting" with dropping DRM, Reuters explains. Privately, however, label executives accept that "following EMI's move . . . is only a matter of time." It may also take only one of the other labels to topple the proverbial house of cards. An industry executive told the news agency that if Universal—the biggest of the "big four"—makes the move to get rid of DRM, then all other labels will have to follow. And as a matter of fact, some analysts believe such a move by Universal is imminent and could be announced in May as part of a deal with Amazon.com.

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