updated 03:30 pm EST, Tue November 25, 2008
DRM-free majors on iTunes?
Apple may have already completed negotiations with the three major record labels not yet on iTunes Plus, reports suggest. Apple is only recently said to have begun talks with Warner, Universal and Sony BMG to open up its catalog for the DRM-free Plus service, which currently hosts EMI and a collection of independent labels. Although Plus tracks are popular, allowing unlimited backups and broader media player support, most major-label tracks on iTunes are locked to Apple's FairPlay DRM.
It is generally believed that Universal has been offering DRM-free deals to other music vendors -- such as Amazon, Rhapsody and Walmart -- in a deliberate move to undermine Apple's control of digital sales. The iTunes Store remains the most popular place for buying music files online.
Evidence of a finished deal is said to come not only from rumors of Sony BMG
uploading Plus content, but new accounts of tracks from various holdout labels being moved to the Upgrade My Library section of iTunes. This allows formerly DRM-protected tracks to be unlocked; as an example, one new DRM-free album is said to be Rakim's The 18th Letter/The Book of Life, published by Universal. Apple has not made any announcements however, which could signify limited or experimental arrangements, or even an accident.