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Microsoft changes tune on selling DRM-free songs

Company's been talking with record labels for 'some time'

By Elizabeth Montalbano
April 6, 2007 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Following digital music pioneer Apple Inc.'s lead, Microsoft Corp. said it will soon sell digital music online without digital rights management (DRM) protection.

Microsoft's apparent change of heart on selling DRM-free music came in response to Apple's deal earlier in the week to sell unprotected content from recording company EMI Group PLC. The company previously claimed that DRM was necessary for current and emerging digital media business models.

"The EMI announcement on Monday was not exclusive to Apple," said Katy Asher, a Microsoft spokeswoman on the Zune team, in an e-mail to the IDG News Service today. She said Microsoft has been talking with EMI and other record labels "for some time now" about offering unprotected music on its Zune players in an effort to meet the needs of its customers.

"Consumers have made it clear that unprotected music is something they want," Asher said. "We plan on offering it to them as soon as our label partners are comfortable with it."

In February, Apple CEO and founder Steve Jobs stirred up controversy when he called for an end to DRM in an open letter to the industry published on Apple's Web site. At the time, Microsoft responded harshly to Jobs' statement -- a Zune spokesman called it naive and irresponsible -- but now the company seems to have literally changed its tune.

Microsoft released Zune and its corresponding Zune Marketplace last November as a competitor to iPod and iTunes. Early reports on sales of the device show it has done little to cut into iPod's market share, but Microsoft executives have maintained that the company's investment in Zune is long term and the product was not expected to overtake the iPod immediately.

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Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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