The last major record company to hold out against legal MP3 music downloads without digital rights management protection has buckled. As the Associated Press reports, Sony BMG has announced that it plans to release music in MP3 format later this month in North America. The record company's plans don't yet include other locales like Europe and Japan, and they only involve a select repertoire of music. However, with Sony BMG now in the game, all of the world's "big four" record companies have a finger in the MP3 pie.
According to the AP, Sony BMG's MP3 tracks will debut as part of a new download service called Platinum MusicPass aimed at users in the U.S. and Canada. To download music, customers will need to purchase $12.99 MusicPass cards at wide number of retail locations like Best Buy and Target. Only 37 music titles will be available through MusicPass at first.
Hand in hand with Sony BMG's announcement, one of the main players in the online music download business—Napster—has announced that it will embrace DRM-free MP3 music. Ars Technica reports that Napster plans to make its entire music catalog available in MP3 format starting next quarter. The move may require cooperation from Sony BMG, and Napster CEO Chris Gorog reportedly confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that Napster is finalizing agreements with "at least some" of the big four record firms. Napster's DRM-free MP3 music will be available through the same subscription service as its current protected Windows Media tracks.