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Sony missing the point

As previously rumored, Sony will sell DRM-free MP3s...but only to customers who physically walk into a store and buy a $12.99 card first.

Before I get into some of my CES floor finds, I had to comment on the strange announcement from Sony BMG this morning. As previously rumored, Sony will indeed join the other three major labels in selling DRM-free MP3 files to consumers. But wait! First, customers will have to walk into a retailer, plunk down $12.99 for a Platinum Pass card, then redeem a code from the back of the card on Sony's Web site. And the music itself is being trickled out, starting with only 37 albums. (Press release is here if you want the gory details.)

I'm sure Sony's retail partners love the idea--gift cards draw customers into stores where they buy other products, and of course Sony is imagining that some of those might be Sony products. The only problem is that unprotected MP3s are already available for free on file-trading networks, on CDs borrowed from friends and ripped, on flash drives swapped among friends, and in countless other ways. The other three majors seem to have realized that if they want to compete against free, they have to make purchases as convenient as possible. But apparently Sony's still living in another era.