Universal Leads the Charge Against iTunes

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One month ago, Universal Music made headlines when the company refused to renew a long-term contract with Apple’s iTunes, instead deciding to sell its music there (by artists including U2, 50 Cent and Black Eyed Peas) on an “at-will” basis. Part of the disagreement was Apple’s desire to shift away from D.R.M.-encoded music on its “iTunes Plus” service; Universal had insisted on retaining the copy-protection standard. Now the company will pull an about-face, offering D.R.M.-free music—just not with iTunes. Take that, Mr. Jobs. The New York Times says Universal will work with digital services offered by RealNetworks, Amazon and Wal-Mart, plus artists’ websites.

EMI is the only major label to offer higher bit-rate, D.R.M.-free music on iTunes, with songs costing $1.29 each instead of 99 cents.

Universal’s decision to screw around with its artists’ music, forcing consumers to jump through even more hoops and search through various digital stores just to actually spend money on their favorite songs, is expected to solve music-piracy problems immediately, since there’s no way a simple file-sharing program could compete with the fun of that.

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