Upgrading to a DRM-free iTunes library will cost you

Apple will not only offer new tracks stripped of copy-protection software, it will let you remove DRM from your existing iTunes collection--for 30 cents per song.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
2 min read

Apple's Macworld updates

Here's a basic rundown of everything Apple announced Tuesday. For more details, read our summary here.

DRM-free and cheaper songs

MacBook Pro
New 8-hour battery

iLife '09
Photo geotagging and music lessons

iWork '09
Online syncing, Keynote Remote

Updated at 4:30 p.m. PST with details on the file formats Apple is using.

Apple and the three largest music labels didn't take any half steps in walking away from copy-protection software at Macworld 2009 Tuesday.

Apple could have announced, as expected, simply that the iTunes Store would begin offering songs stripped of digital rights management from now on. Instead, the country's largest music retailer secured licenses that will enable users to upgrade their existing DRM-wrapped music and strip it of the controversial software--but it's going to cost them.

An Apple spokesman offered more details: Users of iTunes can now upgrade their music libraries with a click of a button. For an additional 30 cents per song, a user can receive a DRM-free version of their existing tracks at a 256-kbps bit rate.

The iTunes files will still be in Apple's preferred AAC format, not the more widely supported MP3. But as Matt Rosoff points out, a lot of recent digital music products do support the AAC file format, including Sony's newer Walkman players and Microsoft's Zune and its next version of Windows Media Player.

Starting Tuesday, Apple will offer 8 million DRM-free songs and will add another 2 million by April. The hold-up for the remaining songs is due to licensing issues, according to my sources.

Photos: Jobs fill-in touts media, MacBook updates

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I'm not going to gripe about that. Those kinds of details work themselves out, and it's impressive that Apple and the major labels--Universal, Sony BMG, and Warner--worked out a deal for the 8 million.

With the move, Apple's iTunes is also making its strongest foray into interoperability. From now on, iTunes' music should play on any digital player, meaning iTunes users don't have to worry about their music libraries being locked out of some future digital music player.

Apple had already offered DRM-free music from EMI, the fourth-largest music label, at a higher bit rate for a premium price.

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