Wednesday, April 04, 2007

iTunes Begins to Unlock Their Files

On April 2, 2007, Apple announced that in an agreement with EMI it would distribute electronic music without the evil DRM security coding!

Almost three years ago, I stopped purchasing music from iTunes because they started locking MY files -- the files I paid for. I wrote an article on this blog titled Fair Use? Fair To Whom? in which I bemoaned the unfairness of this.

Yesterday, I learned that the European Union is considering action against Apple for price-fixing, proprietary file structure, and the unfair practice of encoding (locking) the files it sells!

Hooray! There are thinking people involved in running some small part of Western Civilization. Of crourse, they are in Europe. You wouldn't expect post-Reagan America to be fair or sensible. Would you? Of course not!

So, the upshot is that iTunes will begin to sell unencoded EMI music for $1.29 per cut in the United States! This is good.

As soon as they drop all encoding from all of their files and return to a universal file format, I will consider shopping there again. Until that time, however, I encourage all people to boycott iTunes.

Here are a couple of articles out on the web that I reprint, in the spirit of fair use, for your enjoyment.

iTunes to offer DRM-free music from EMI

At the special event in London on Monday, EMI Music announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital music available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions and that Apple iTunes Store will be the first retailer to offer the higher quality, DRM-free music. The Cupertino-based company will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads and without any digital right management (DRM technology). Pricing will be $1.29/€1.29/£0.99; however, iTunes will continue to offer consumers the ability to pay $0.99/€0.99/£0.79 for standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on the iTunes Store will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price. The new higher-quality, DRM-free songs will be available in May.

Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for $0.30/€0.30/£0.20 per track. All EMI music videos will also be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free with no change in price.

The new higher quality DRM-free music will complement EMI's existing range of standard DRM-protected downloads already available. Starting today, EMI's retailers will be offered downloads of tracks and albums in the DRM-free audio format of their choice in a variety of bit rates up to CD quality, the company said. "EMI is releasing the premium downloads in response to consumer demand for high fidelity digital music for use on home music systems, mobile phones and digital music players," the company said. "EMI's new DRM-free products will enable full interoperability of digital music across all devices and platforms."

"Our goal is to give consumers the best possible digital music experience. By providing DRM-free downloads, we aim to address the lack of interoperability which is frustrating for many music fans," said Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group. "We believe that offering consumers the opportunity to buy higher quality tracks and listen to them on the device or platform of their choice will boost sales of digital music.

"Apple have been a true pioneer in digital music, and we are delighted that they share our vision of an interoperable market that provides consumers with greater choice, quality, convenience and value for money."

"Selling digital music DRM-free is the right step forward for the music industry," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "EMI has been a great partner for iTunes and is once again leading the industry as the first major music company to offer its entire digital catalogue DRM-free."

EMI also announced that is introducing a new wholesale price for premium single track downloads, while maintaining the existing wholesale price for complete albums. EMI expects that consumers will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free downloads from a variety of digital music stores within the coming weeks, with each retailer choosing whether to sell downloads in AAC, WMA, MP3 or other unprotected formats of their choice. Music fans will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free digital music for personal use, and listen to it on a wide range of digital music players and music-enabled phones.

EMI's move follows a series of experiments it conducted recently. Norah Jones's "Thinking About You", Relient K's "Must've Done Something Right", and Lily Allen's "Littlest Things" were all made available for sale in the MP3 format in trials held at the end of last year.

EMI Music will continue to employ DRM as appropriate to enable innovative digital models such as subscription services (where users pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to music), super-distribution (allowing fans to share music with their friends) and time-limited downloads (such as those offered by ad-supported services).

"Protecting the intellectual property of EMI and our artists is as important as ever, and we will continue to work to fight piracy in all its forms and to educate consumers," Nicoli added. "We believe that fans will be excited by the flexibility that DRM-free formats provide, and will see this as an incentive to purchase more of our artists' music."

EU competition watchdog bites Apple over iTunes prices
by Dorothee Moisan
April 3, 2007

After launching action against Microsoft and Intel, the European Union's competition watchdog has taken aim at another US computer giant, Apple, over the price of songs on its online music store.

The watchdog, the European Commission, alleges that Apple has broken EU competition laws by charging different prices for music on its iTunes websites depending on which country they are downloaded from.

The action, notified to Apple in a "statement of objections" two years after the problem was first raised, was welcomed Tuesday by consumer groups, many of which have already complained about the US giant's practices in Europe.

European online shoppers are only able to download music from iTunes in their country of residence -- or where their credit card is registered -- and prices differ in the European Union's member countries.

The Commission claims that distribution arrangements between Apple and major record companies impose "territorial restrictions" on music sales.

"The very fact that you are unable to buy the same tunes at the same price, or you are unable in some cases to even buy the same tune at all, is a problem for us," said competition affairs spokesman Jonathan Todd.

Apple, which the Commission says has online stores in 15 of the EU's 27 member countries, denies breaking the rules.

"We don't believe Apple did anything to violate EU law," it said in a statement, and suggested it was under pressure to set prices from the major record labels it deals with.

"Apple has always wanted to operate a single, pan-European iTunes store accessible by anyone from any member state, but we were advised by the music labels and publishers that there were certain legal limits to the rights they could grant us," the company said.

Todd conceded that the record majors, which he refused to name but are probably EMI, Warner, Universal and Sony BMG, did have an influence but he said that Apple only has itself to blame.

"They are the ones that have entered into these agreements," he said.

The statement of objections -- a first formal step in the Commission's anti-trust procedures -- sent Friday was a nice surprise for consumer groups, some of whom thought their complaints had fallen on deaf ears.

"It is definitely something that we welcome," said a spokeswoman for the European consumers organisation BEUC, which unites around 40 national consumer groups in Europe. "For consumers, the market remains segmented."

The case arose two years ago when British organisation Which? lodged a complaint against iTunes alleged "territorial price discrimination," claiming it had isolated Britain's downloadable music market and caused overcharging.

Which? said again late last year that a song cost a British online shopper 1.17 euros, compared to 0.99 euros -- an 18 percent difference -- for a shopper in the eurozone, the 13 countries sharing the single currency.

The spokeswoman said BEUC feared the Commission had "buried" the problem.

The EU regulator has hotly pursued Microsoft for abuse of market dominant position since 2004 with its near-ubiquitous Windows software system, and has been investigating chipmaker Intel for similar reasons.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.

Copyright © 2007 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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