updated 03:40 pm EST, Wed November 19, 2008
iTunes Plus Talk Rumors
Apple is discussing deals with the three major music labels yet to sign on to iTunes Plus to remove the locks on their music as well, alleged sources tell CNET. Two reported contacts describe "preliminary" negotiations that would expand Apple's deal for music without copy protection beyond EMI and independents to include Sony, Warner and Universal. The talks are said to have been spread over the past several months for at least two labels and aren't certain to result in a favorable income.
The report claims that the switch would use MP3s as the choice of format to produce truly cross-platform files usable anywhere, though such a switch would be unusual for Apple. Current iTunes Plus files are encoded in unprotected AAC, which itself is a standard and is playable on competing devices such as Microsoft's Zune lineup and Sony Walkman players.
A change to music free of Digital Rights Management (DRM) on iTunes would represent a dramatic shift away from copy protection in digital music but also a relatively late shift for Apple. Online retailers such as Amazon MP3, Napster, Rhapsody and Walmart have all either launched or converted to DRM-free music stores in the past as they have seen relatively little uptake for protected Windows Media or other non-Apple formats.
Certain cases, such as Universal's initial ventures with Rhapsody and Walmart, are believed by some to have been deliberate attempts to heat competition with iTunes by giving rivals iPod-ready music as well as to gauge the impact of opening music to competition.
It would also partly dismantle complaints from Norwegian officials and other government bodies accusing Apple of an unfair tie-in between iTunes songs and iPods that prevents competing players and software from working with Apple products.