When Apple introduced the iTunes Music Store in 2003, the service departed from pirate music download sites in three major ways: the music was protected, the music wasn't free, and the music was offered legally. Apple began to iron out the first of those differences with the advent of digital rights management-free tracks last year, and Reuters reports that the company may about to go after the second major difference in the future.
Reuters quotes a Financial Times report as saying Apple is negotiating with major record companies to offer music on the iTunes Store for free. There would be a catch, of course: users would have to purchase an iPod or iPhone at a premium first. Exactly what kind of premium Apple will demand isn't clear yet, and the iPod maker is reportedly in a dispute with record firms over that particular point.
That said, Reuters quotes an anonymous industry executive as saying research shows users should be okay with premiums of as much as $100, as long as that buys them an unlimited supply of music for the remainder of the device's lifetime. Considering $100 only buys you a handful of albums on the iTunes Store right now, that may in fact turn out to be a good deal.