Apple kills off DRM

DRM (Digital Right Management) has been a thorn in the side of music and video lovers for years. Now, Apple, after wheeling and dealing with the major music companies, is killing DRM off for good in iTunes.

You should now be able to buy DRM-free songs in one of three price ranges: 69-cents, 99-cents or $1.29. These prices are for, respectively, older catalog titles; current but not especially popular songs; and top hits. So, for example, Credence Clearwater Revival's 1969 hit Bad Moon Rising, is likely to sell for 69-cents; the Dropkick Murphy's I'm Shipping up to Boston, should sell for 99-cents; and Kanye West's Heartless would go for $1.29. Most, about 90% of iTunes musical catalog, will be available at these prices and without DRM by the end of March.

These songs will also of higher quality than their DRM-crippled brothers. Instead of 128Kbps, these tunes are played at 256Kbps. You won't be able to tell the difference on a set of generic PC speakers, but you'll certainly be able to tell that 256 is better on any decent stereo system.

If you want to free your iTunes songs from DRM imprisonment, and upgrade them to 256Kbps, you can do it, but it will cost you. Song upgrades are available for $0.30; video upgrades--audio content only--for $0.60, and albums for 30% of the album price. Your older copies will be placed in a new directory, while your iTunes files and library are updated. You can automatically find out what in your collection can be upgraded and how much it will run you by clicking on this link on your iTunes-equipped PC.

The music companies and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) were finally forced to give up on DRM by the economy and the marketplace. In 2008, according to Nielsen SoundScan, digital tracks outsold physical media by more than two to one. Soon, your younger brothers and sisters will want to know why you still keep all those funny discs around that look like DVDs.

First, Apple proved that, contrary to recording company conventional paranoia, people would buy digital music rather than just download it from the peer-to-peer networks. Then, Apple, with EMI which gave up on DRM in 2007, proved that removing DRM didn't automatically result in people stealing EMI music like crazy.

Gosh, treat people like they might honestly want to buy music for their own use and it turns out that they really will pay cash for their songs. Who knew? Certainly not the music companies, which resisted this change for ages and ticked off their customers along the way.

We could have seen this coming. In December, the RIAA finally gave up on suing individual users for 'musical piracy.'

As amazing as it may seem, I think we may finally be seeing the end of DRM. Well, DRM in music anyway. Now, if the movie companies, like Disney which seems to be giving its Wall-E customers fits with its DRMed DVD, would only get the clue, we'd all be better off.

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