Yahoo starts selling DRM-free song

Yahoo is selling a digital song that comes without digital rights management copy protection.

Yahoo this week became one of the first mainstream digital music sites to sell a song without DRM (digital rights management) copy protection.

The Jessica Simpson song, "A Public Affair," released by Sony BMG Music Entertainment's Epic Records label, is an MP3 file and costs $US1.99 to download. Because it doesn't carry DRM protection, buyers can burn the song onto CD as many times as they want and play it on virtually any portable music player.

Writing on Yahoo's music blog on Wednesday, Ian Rogers, a director of product management at Yahoo, said that Yahoo has been trying to convince record labels to sell DRM-free music for a while. "Our position is simple: DRM doesn't add any value for the artist, label (who are selling DRM-free music every day -- the compact disc), or consumer, the only people it adds value to are the technology companies who are interested in locking consumers to a particular technology platform," he wrote.

In addition, it's expensive for companies that sell digital music to implement and support DRM, he said.

DRM-free music inherently has more value then protected songs because users are free to do what they like with a file after they buy it, he said. However, the relatively steep price on the Jessica Simpson song -- double the typical cost of a song -- isn't only because it is DRM-free. Yahoo is also allowing customers to "customize" the song by choosing a specific name from a list of available choices and that's the primary reason for the price premium, he said.

Rogers didn't say whether Yahoo had plans to offer other DRM-free songs.

The move from Yahoo comes in contrast to Apple Computer's DRM technology, which restricts iTunes customers to playing songs bought from the store only on iPods. Apple has come under fire for the policy most notably in Europe. French lawmakers recently approved a law that requires companies to share the technology behind the DRM they use with other companies that wish to make interoperable systems. However, the law is not imposed if copyright holders agree to the sale of their songs under proprietary DRM technology. Norway, Sweden and Denmark have also launched activities against Apple, asking the company to defend its proprietary setup.

Other online music stores sell DRM-free MP3s but they tend to focus on songs published by independent labels. For example, EMusic.com, which sells DRM-free songs from independent labels, claims to be second only to iTunes in number of downloads sold. Yahoo's music store mainly sells songs from mainstream artists and major labels.

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Nancy Gohring

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