updated 02:30 pm EST, Mon January 22, 2007
Labels Rethink Music DRM
Major music labels are considering removing the copy protection that currently applies to most online music stores' content, according to a report by the International Herald Tribune. Though officially dedicated to DRM, spokespeople for music organization leaders at the Midem expo in France said that they were investigating the possibility of releasing large quantities of their catalogs in unprotected MP3 format, pointing to slower growth of online music stores in relation to the drop in physical album sales. the increased interoperability may actually be a benefit rather than a piracy risk, they said.
"We could release our products without digital-rights management restrictions on [download stores] in the way that consumers want and still make a lot of money," Consumer Electronics Association head Gary Shapiro told reporters.
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While holdouts such as the RIAA defended copy protection by noting that DRM is not inherently opposed to cross-platform support, the trend is increasingly towards unrestricted formats, the Tribune observes. The effective implosion of physical music stores in South Korea and similar countries has virtually necessitated the distribution of MP3 tracks, while online stores such as VirginMega in France and Yahoo! Music in the US have experimented with releasing some or all of their music in unprotected form.
The Western market is generally more resistant to such decisions, the newspaper writes, but may have little choice if the current model fails to convert dedicated pirates or those resistant to the idea. "The question is what is their level of pain," Yahoo! Music's manager David Goldberg said. "What level of sales decline is needed to take that leap?"
Online retailer eMusic recently surprised many by claiming second place behind iTunes last year despite selling its music solely in high-bitrate MP3s.