updated 12:55 pm EST, Fri January 4, 2008
Sony BMG Dropping DRM Soon
Sony BMG will soon join the other major labels in dropping digital rights management (DRM) protection from its music sold online, according to claims by BusinessWeek. The magazine points to anonymous sources which say the record company will shed copy protection on at least some of its digital catalog before the end of March, allowing users to copy or move songs to other computers and portable media players. The move follows similar efforts by EMI, Universal, and now Warner to spur sales by overcoming distrust of proprietary copy protection schemes.
The decision has been made at least in part due to a successful experimental campaign that has been giving away unprotected songs from artists with relatively small album sales, according to an unnamed Sony BMG executive. At least one artist has reportedly become very popular from the trial.
No stores have been specifically named as candidates for carrying the unguarded music, though the deal is likely to hinge on an Amazon MP3 promotional deal, according to the supposed leak. Repeating an earlier claim, the apparent insider points to an expected billion-song Pepsi promo in which the soft drink maker will hide codes for tracks from Amazon's store underneath bottle caps, similar to a giveaway held for Apple's iTunes store in 2004. As pop singer Justin Timberlake is set to participate in the contest but is under Sony's Jive label, Sony BMG will have to begin offering at least some of its catalog in unprotected form, the source argues.
Whether iTunes and other major digital outlets beyond Amazon will carry unprotected versions of the label's music is unknown. Universal and Warner have both bypassed the Apple-run store altogether in de-restricting their content; while Universal has claimed that it is using Apple as the control in a test of the viability of DRM-free tracks, both it and Warner are often believed to be deliberately withholding the content from iTunes in an attempt to earn pricing concessions from Apple. The latter's iTunes Plus unprotected service is currently limited to albums from EMI and multiple smaller labels.
Full details of Sony BMG's plans are expected in the "coming weeks," the magazine says.