Universal begins DRM-free downloads trial
By Simon Aughton
Posted on 12 Mar 2007 at 11:37
Universal has begun testing the viability of DRM-free downloads, albeit in a very limited release of an album by French singer-songwriter Emilie Simon.
The Live à l'Olympia recording is available in unrestricted MP3 and WMA formats through her own website for €9.99, as well as on commercial services such as iTunes with DRM at the same price.
'We are making some micro tests,' said Universal Music France, Middle East and Mediterranean-South America president Pascal Negre, but warned that this does not indicate any immediate change in policy.
He said that the DRM-free version has generated a 'few dozen' sales, but that may pick up now that the experiment has been publicised. However it is only available to residents of France.
Universal is the second of the other 'big four' record companies to test DRM-free downloads. EMI released a number of tracks as MP3s late last year, although last month it withdrew from talks with the major digital music store operators after they balked at its demand for compensation in return for the right to sell unrestricted music.
The two other major labels have yet to suggest that they have any plans to test DRM-free music. Sony BMG has been conspicuous by its silence in the recent debate around whether the labels should abandon their insistence on DRM, though it is somewhat preoccupied by its appeal of an EU court ruling that outlawed the merger of its constituent parts, Sony and BMG. Warner Music chief executive Edgar Bronfman remains an ardent defender of copy protection.
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