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Crave Talk: EMI confirms DRM-free music on iTunes

EMI has confirmed it is making DRM-free music available for download on the iTunes Store. Users will be given a choice of which versions to download. Purchased tracks and albums can also be upgraded

In a ground-breaking announcement in London today EMI has confirmed that it will sell music from May on Apple's iTunes Store without DRM. Hurrah!

Users will be given a choice: either download higher quality tracks (256Kbps AAC) without DRM for 99p ($1.29 in the US), or purchase tracks at standard quality (128Kbps AAC) but with DRM for the current price of 79p. This gives music lovers a choice, which is exactly what we have always wanted. EMI has listened to the millions of voices across the globe and has respected the music fans it serves. Our hats are doffed.

Users will also be given the option to upgrade previously purchased tracks and albums for the difference (ie 20p per track). Downloadable music videos will also be DRM-free. (There was no news on the Beatles, by the way.)

Although we're a little miffed to hear that individual tracks will effectively be costing us more money to get less stuff, complete albums that are purchased in the new high-quality DRM-free format, will remain the same price as they are currently.

This is a truly phenomenal landmark in the war on digital rights management and its choking grasp on music fans everywhere. DRM has restricted the explosion of online music sales and treated genuine, honest music fans as crooks, as we argued in our piece earlier this morning.

EMI is the parent label of Capitol Records, Virgin Records and Apple Records, along with dozens of standalone labels. Music available on iTunes from EMI includes artists such as Blur and Kylie Minogue.

We're glad this announcement came after April Fool's Day. Google announced their Gmail service on 1 April one year and the Internet was rife with suspicion that it was all a big joke -- we didn't want the death of DRM to be dismissed in the same way.

How long will it take for other other labels to join in and realise DRM is the cancer of digital music? Crave encourages you to show your support for DRM-free music and check out the new catalogue available on the iTunes Store -- and other DRM-free services such as eMusic. Today truly is a red-letter day. -Nate Lanxon