When Apple CEO Steve Jobs made an appearance at the London offices of music publisher EMI earlier today, some had speculated that it would be to trumpet the much-anticipated news that that the Beatles catalog would finally appear on iTunes. Alas, it turns out that Jobs was on hand as part of a press event at which it was announced that EMI’s digital catalog (which includes artists like Coldplay, Korn, 30 Seconds to Mars, and Lily Allen) will soon be available on higher-quality downloads — and without copy-protection.
It might not sound like a big deal, but this announcement is likely to have a major impact on the way music is sold online. Currently, the great majority of tracks sold on the iTunes Store are from one of the so-called “Big Four” music companies: Sony BMG, Universal, Warner, and EMI. Citing fears of widespread file-sharing when they signed their original deals with Apple, these companies insisted that their tracks be sold with some form of digital rights management, or DRM, that prevented consumers from easily copying these files onto, say, other computers or digital music players. EMI is now the first of the Big Four to remove these limitations — andthe remaining three companies are expected to follow suit.
Still, withcopy-protected songs bought from iTunes making up only 3 percent of a typical iPod’smusic, do you think this is a fix that is too little, too late? Willthe availability of higher-quality, unprotected songs drive you to buy more songs on the iTunes Store — even considering that they’ll cost 30 cents more than the regular DRM versions? What other kind of changeswould you like Apple to make? And are you looking forward to buying theWhite Album online?