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Universal to test DRM-Free music sales

"Universal Music Group has announced that the company is going to test selling DRM-free music to consumers in order to assess the market."

"Doug Morris, UMG's chairman and CEO, said in a statement that the company began internally considering the DRM-free waters earlier this year, and the company is expanding its plans into a nationwide test to "provide valuable insights into the implications of selling our music in an open format."

The test will see UMG offering a portion of its catalog—primarily its most popular content—sold without DRM between August 21 and January 31 of next year."

This is obviously good news, however Universal seems quite cautious about this.

"January 31 is likely more of a fire escape than an end date. If UMG doesn't like what they're seeing, they'll pull the plug."

However, they wont be selling through Apple's iTunes. Instead it seems they will compete.

"One reason would be that Universal doesn't like Apple. UMG is the largest music company on the planet, which helps explain why they are trying to ruffle Steve Jobs' feathers."


This good news is a bit spoiled by the news that Univeral will track DRM-free music online via watermarking:

"Thus, Universal's plan appears to be rather simple: sell watermarked tunes to users, then sit back and scan the P2P networks for music files with Universal watermarks. While the data won't lead them back to pirates, they will be able to detect the presence of watermarked music online. Doing so would confirm for them which tracks have been purchased and then shared online.

The problem is that the results aren't indicative of the risks of selling DRM-free music. Because digital music is, well, digital, it is possible to make endless numbers of copies from one original."

Of course the DRM-free files


Of course the DRM-free files will be shared. I can see some poor reasoning coming, which Universal will use to justify continuing selling restricted music.

Something else: I wonder if such watermarks would survive reencoding the file to a different format, eg from mp3 to ogg vorbis?

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