updated 09:10 pm EST, Thu February 8, 2007
EMI considers MP3 format
Apple this week set off a controversial debate with CEO Steve Jobs' open letter on axing music copyright protections, but it may be paying off. According to the The Wall Street Journal, EMI Group PLC has been holding talks with several online retailers about the possibility of selling its entire digital music catalog in the unprotected MP3 format--a music compression format without the digital right management protections for which Apple's chief and others have been arguing.
Although the proposal was slammed by execs from Warner Bros and the RIAA, the progressive-thinking label hopes that removing such barriers will help boost digital-music sales, by allowing consumers to play music purchased from any online store on any digital music device. EMI is believed to be the only major music label to be seriously considering the move, which some say could help boost sales, including the more-profitable digital sales.
Apple's closed system, which only allows iTunes music to played on the company's wildly popular iPods, is the most popular in the world, but has come under fire from many European nations. Jobs' blog post even drew a response from Norway, which began pressuring Apple to open its FairPlay DRM last year. Recently, the Netherlands and Italy as well as French and German Groups joined Norway in its efforts to pressure Apple to open up its DRM. The US, however, has backed Apple's DRM efforts.
The report says that while several major music companies have floated the idea of scrapping copy protection for music in recent months, none appears to have gone as far down the road as EMI. Others such as Warner chief executive believe that copy-protection software is critical to stop piracy, despite falling revenues.
EMI is believed to have held talks with a wide range of online retailers that compete with Apple's iTunes, including RealNetworks, eMusic.com, MusicNet, and Viacom's MTV Networks, the report said.
"People familiar with the matter cautioned that EMI could still abandon the proposed strategy before implementing it," the report concluded. "A decision about whether to keep pursuing the idea could come as soon as today."