EMI To Sell DRM-Free Tracks Through iTunes Music Store

from the score-one-for-steve dept

For a while, EMI has been the most progressive of the major record labels, and it had been rumored that the company would start selling DRM-free digital tracks. Today, the company trotted out anti-DRMista Steve Jobs to announce that it would begin selling its digital catalog without DRM through the iTunes Music Store. EMI's songs will be available in the AAC format, and will be encoded at 256kbps, twice the bitrate of standard songs sold through iTMS. They'll also carry a higher price: $1.29 per track in the US, compared to 99 cents for versions encumbered with DRM. While that price difference will certainly elicit some complaints, it does reflect that DRM-free tracks are more valuable than those with pointless and frustrating copy protection. But what's a little more interesting about the higher price is that Steve Jobs has relented from the $1 per song price point, which he's steadfastly maintained despite continual pressure from record labels to raise prices. While we dismissed Jobs' earlier anti-DRM rant as little more than a PR stunt, it appears that now he's using a carrot-and-stick approach with the record labels: drop the DRM, offer consumers a more valuable product, and he'll charge consumers a higher price -- and presumably, pay a higher wholesale one as well. While that's simple and straightforward for most of us, it may still be a hard sell to the music industry, who puts a lot of effort into trying to get consumers to pay more for less.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 8:55am

    whole album

    The cost for the whole non-DRM album will still be the normal DRM cost. I had been avoiding iTunes because of the DRM, but their EMI library just got a new customer.

     

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  2.  
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    Richard Ahlquist, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 9:09am

    Finally

    Did you feel the strange stirring in the force... I cant believe this happened so quickly.

     

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  3.  
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    The Growler, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 9:12am

    But it's still Apple's DRM - AAC

    So consumers still don't get truly portable, platform-agnostic music. Save the "DRM-Free" headline for when MP3s become available for purchase.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 9:25am

    Re: But it's still Apple's DRM - AAC

    AAC is not DRM, it is just a file format that can incorporate DRM.

     

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  5.  
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    dataGuy, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 9:33am

    Re: But it's still Apple's DRM - AAC

    I think AAC sounds better. It's the format I used when I ripped my CDs. Though I used the VBR option, not clear if Apple will be using that with the new non-DRM files.

    I will have to buy at least one EMI album from iTunes to "vote" my support to this step in the right direction.

     

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  6.  
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    Matt Peoples, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 9:56am

    A company cannot sell a product for the same price forever. Since consumers will naturally dislike price increases on a certain product, companies introduce new products which are essentially the same thing in order to either adjust for inflation or perhaps gain more profit.

    I think this is less a "carrot-and-stick" approach, and more a way to gradually introduce higher prices in a way that appears justified. One might argue that the itunes store is a loss leader, but I'm sure Apple would love for an outside justification for a price increase. They appear to not back down to record company pressures to raise prices on the existing product. But this is something new (in a sense).

    ...just another take on it.

     

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  7.  
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    Grant, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 10:31am

    A couple missed details

    There are a couple of details that this article missed which, at least to me, make EMI's decision even more interesting. (I heard most of this info on NPR this morning but was able to confirm it from this BBC article. --DRM-free tracks will (reputedly) be at a higher quality, providing a further incentive for audiophiles to upgrade their iTunes collection and for listeners to switch. (We'll have to compare them for real in May.) --iTunes is offering upgrades on all EMI tracks for what is apparently just the difference in price -- $0.30 will upgrade a previously purchased EMI song to the new DRM-free file. Nice to see customers not have to repurchase part of their collection at full price. And as the first commenter noted, whole DRM-free albums are "discounted" to the DRM rate. --Job's last statement in the BBC article is interesting: "We are adding another product, priced higher, with more features, higher sound quality and hassle free interoperability. It's not a price increase." In particular, the "more features" comment caught my eye; not sure if this means something other than the removal of DRM or not.

     

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  8.  
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    James, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 10:34am

    Its a start..

    .. in the right direction, but if EMI is going to sell non-crippled (DRM free) music then WHY aren't these songs available on ALL sites that sell music and not just iTunes??

    Not all of choose to buy into the whole ipod ecosystem, and yeh I know I could buy it, burn it, convert it.. blah blah blah, but that still means I gotta use the iTunes software.

    I do applaud them for at least trying this instead of the same old worn our DRM arguments, and whining.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 10:45am

    Re: Its a start..

    Most MP3 players play AAC....The only IPod limiter was Fairplay.

     

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  10.  
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    Bumbling old fool, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 10:52am

    One customer has returned

    I havent bought any music in years due to the way the "big 4" has been abusing its paying customers.

    So it may not be a big thing but one label has just had "one customer" return. I wonder how many other "ones" there are like me. I'll be making my first purchase tonight when I get home.

    (Yeah, I have an ipod, and a mac, and iTunes IS the worst piece of crap media manager out there. But hey, now I actually have a reason to use iTMS.)

     

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  11.  
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    sal, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 11:05am

    artists

    so does any of the extra money go to the artists or are they still kept on the same rates? funny how no-one ever mentions them

     

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  12.  
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    Wolfger, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 11:15am

    still not right for me

    $0.99 is a reasonable price. Raising the price nearly 30 percent to give me a non-crippled version of the song isn't "nice", it's pricerape. Trying to justify the pricerape by doubling the bitrate of the file makes things even worse, as now I can fit even fewer songs on my hard drive or mp3 player. Few, if any, people can really appreciate the difference between 128 and 256. I know I can't. Particularly when I listen to my music in the car, with lots of road noise.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 11:15am

    I will never buy digital music unless it comes in standard 320kbps MP3 files. You may think that's extreme, but I can hear the difference. 128-192 kbps files are much more common, but they sound like crap on my home and car stereos. I will not resort to paying for 256kbps AAC files which I then have to convert to MP3, losing quality in the process. MP3 has been the standard for a looooong time now, and they need to get that through their thick heads.

    Apple is still as devious as ever, because they want to improve their public image, but they're doing it in a way that makes it so that you still have to use their iPod to play the music files, and therefore it's still a closed system. I don't know of any other portable music player that plays AAC files. It's just one big ripoff after the next, after the next.

     

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  14.  
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    simspace, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 11:29am

    Pretty cool. Once all the other labels cave in, we just need Apple to provide a Fairplay/DRM stripper.

     

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  15.  
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    Alex Austin (profile), Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 11:42am

    Re: AAC only on iPod

    Any portable music player that supports RockBox, which includes most iRiver devices, Toshiba Gigabeat models, SanDisk, and others, supports AAC. And, as for wanting 320Kb MP3s, many studies have shown that, above 192Kb, MP2 sounds better than MP3. AAC sounds just as good as MP2 up in that area, and more devices than you think will support AAC. Many devices that claim to support Windows Media Audio will work with AAC in a WMA container. That's easy enough to do: ffmpeg -i MyFile.m4a -acodec copy MyFile.wma

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 11:53am

    Re:

    You may think that's extreme, but I can hear the difference.

    A) MP3 requires licenses, so its not open. And if you think you need mp3, again, you are confused. the "first" to the market is not the most open, nor is it the best. You will find no difference in quality between a 320k mp3 and a 256k aac file. You're just deluded if you think otherwise.

    128-192 kbps files are much more common, but they sound like crap on my home and car stereos.

    B) that's comical. 9 out of 10 audiophiles can't correctly guess which mp3 is which bitrate when subjected to a blind test (comparing rates over 192k), and thats on really damn expensive monitor quality equipment. If you think you have 4k$ monitor grade speakers in your car, again, you're probably just delusional.

    I will not resort to paying for 256kbps AAC files which I then have to convert to MP3, losing quality in the process.

    C) Yeah, that would be rather dumb to lose quality reconverting. But that would be your own dumb choice. Most "mp3" players do not advertise themselves as such, because they do not limit their playback capabilities to just proprietary formats (that would the mp3 format there, skippy). there's nothng open or free about the mp3 format, and you're just deluded if you think otherwise.

    MP3 has been the standard for a looooong time now, and they need to get that through their thick heads.

    D) Most people prefer to reject proprietary closed licensed required formats as "the standard". There is no open standard at all, save ogg vorbis. Which has an absolutely horrid adoption rate. However, AAC does not require content licenses, whereas mp3 does. (you have to buy a license to use mp3 technology in an application, you have to have a license to distribute in mp3, you have to have a license to playback mp3 AND you ahve to have a license for every file distributed in mp3)

    Apple is still as devious as ever, because they want to improve their public image, but they're doing it in a way that makes it so that you still have to use their iPod to play the music files, and therefore it's still a closed system.

    E) Where did you read that? I see absolutely no reason to suspect that. The whole reason to remove DRM is for openness and so consumers can do what they want with their purchases. Perhaps you are just basing this ASSUMPTION on all of your other assumptions above.

    I don't know of any other portable music player that plays AAC files. It's just one big ripoff after the next, after the next.

    F) Ah, for someone who claims to be able to tell the difference in bitrate saturated codecs, you sure dont have a clue corncering what you're ranting about. Here's a link to get you started on your newfound path of enlightenment.

    Wikipedia - Advanced Audio Coding

    And every "portable music player" that has yet to sign its own death certificate supports playback of the AAC format.

     

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  17.  
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    Ponder, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 11:59am

    Format War Mark 2.

    If you really care about audio quality, you wouldn't want MP3 as it is a 'lossy' format. I would think you would be after a 'lossless' format, where even sounds which shouldn't be audiable to the human ear are kept in. That's why for really deep bass MP3s just don't cut it.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 12:00pm

    AAC = DRM by format-type

    Yawn......

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 12:37pm

    AC18 - Can you provide a list of modern mainstream devices, including car stereos, that don't play AAC? It's part of the MPEG standard.

    Saying that these new tracks are effectively DRM encoded because they're AAC is the same as saying that a text file is DRM encoded because its in RTF and not TXT.

    Maybe a little research would be useful before yawning in ignorance...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Audio_Coding

    I'm still not buying any download digital tracks from the iTMS until they are available in either FLAC, ALAC, or AIFF but that's because if I'm going to pay approximately the same amount per song as I would on a CD, I'd like the same quality. A lower quality song shouldn't cost as much.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    neal @ Digital Music Frontier, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 12:40pm

    EMI will be offering DRM-free downloads outside of iTunes (and the ACC format) as well.

    Also, the price for an entire album will stay the same. Only the individual DRM-free songs cost more.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    UniBoy, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 1:25pm

    Double Yawn...

    In regards to the comments...Those not accepting this news as a big step in the right direction for consumers and the music industry, are probably just desperately grasping for their next big EXCUSE of why it's ok for them to steal music.

     

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  22.  
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    RandomThoughts, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 1:34pm

    The music industry actually expects customers from paying for their product?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    dataGuy, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 1:55pm

    Re:

    That post is less a random thought than a random grouping of words. It is really a random spam link to your blog, which is going to require more than clogging up this comment thread for me to ever bother to check it out.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    smallz, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 2:03pm

    Re: still not right for me

    i think many more people than you realize can hear the difference between 128 and 256, especially other musicians, (trained AND self taught). heck, I can hear the difference between a traditional cd recording (stops around 20khz) and the sony/phillips super audio cd (extens frequency range to 100khz)

    although above 20k is supposedly inaudible to the human ear, (and saving space for more data was probaby more of a concern when digital recording first started), what some people don't realize is that these frequencies actually effect and change the sound of the other frequencies BELOW 20k. So even though by themselves 20k frequencies and up can't be heard, the lack of these sound frequencies is one of the reasons that recorded performances of live music sound much different than actually being there (even on very high quality sound systems).

    recording technollogy on vinyl actually boosted these frequencies above 20khz, however it also dramatically reduced all frequencies below 20 hertz, which is why some of the bass-heavy pop music sounds so inadequate on record as opposed to cd, while opera music sounds much superior (in my opinion) on vinel than on cd.

    this is more of an issue with folk music, acoustic music, classical music....etc.....

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    RandomThoughts, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 2:12pm

    Dataguy, just because some think that actually requiring people to buy the industry product is a good thing doesn't make it spam.

    If people don't pay for the product, sooner or later the product will stop being offered. DRM might not be perfect, but artists need to be paid for their work, or they will stop producing it.

    It might be nice to say look for new business models or to make your money elsewhere, but do we want the labels to go away? Do we want the labels to start taking a piece of concert revenue, again discouraging artists from producing music?

    Free is nice, but you better be prepared for the results.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    :HAn., Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 2:29pm

    #13... AAC>MP3

    Hey NUMBER 13! MP3 may be the "standard" because it was the first widely accepted format, but your rant to refuse to use AAC over MPE is testiment to your ignorance. The AAC format is actually a higher quality sound compared to an MP# with an equal bitrate. I suggest you get off your pompous ass and do some research.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 3:25pm

    Re: Re:

    "128-192 kbps files are much more common, but they sound like crap on my home and car stereos.

    B) that's comical. 9 out of 10 audiophiles can't correctly guess which mp3 is which bitrate when subjected to a blind test (comparing rates over 192k), and thats on really damn expensive monitor quality equipment. If you think you have 4k$ monitor grade speakers in your car, again, you're probably just delusional."

    Thank you. I'm sick and tired of hearing about all these audophiles who think they have super-human hearing.

    You don't!

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Double Yawn...

    "In regards to the comments...Those not accepting this news as a big step in the right direction for consumers and the music industry, are probably just desperately grasping for their next big EXCUSE of why it's ok for them to steal music."

    I don't need an excuse. The record companies deserve to be ripped off until they go out of business and die. Hopefully, destitute living on the streets.

     

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  29.  
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    vapiddreamer, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 4:35pm

    Stop your BI*#HING

    Anyone complaining that it's only in AAC is a lazy fool--- how hard is it to convert a track to mp3, really you lazy SOB's?!?!? And at 256 threre are, what-- 3 of you who can actually hear the difference between that and a higher bit rate?? And BOOO-HOO it's 30% more expensive-- it's a $1.30, what the hell is your problem. You are the kind of people who would throw a fit if it was 70 degrees and there were 2 clouds in the sky cause YOU prefer it to be 72 and cloudless. Shut the hell up already you bunch of little crybabies!!!!

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    vapiddreamer, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 4:36pm

    Stop your BI*#HING

    Anyone complaining that it's only in AAC is a lazy fool--- how hard is it to convert a track to mp3, really you lazy SOB's?!?!? And at 256 kbps there are, what-- 3 of you who can actually hear the difference between that and a higher bit rate?? And BOOO-HOO it's 30% more expensive-- it's a $1.30, what the hell is your problem. You are the kind of people who would throw a fit if it was 70 degrees and there were 2 clouds in the sky cause YOU prefer it to be 72 and cloudless. Shut the hell up already you bunch of little crybabies!!!!

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 5:40pm

    Re: Stop your BI*#HING

    uh... you are the one bitching here.

    Pent-up frustrations maybe?

    Vent elsewhere. Please.

     

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  32.  
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    Lord XP, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 9:43pm

    Watermarking?

    While EMI will not use DRM for restricting the content to iPods, but it can always track the files and the source of piracy by making use of watermarking techniques. Interesting, isn't it?

     

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  33.  
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    Nasty Old Geezer, Apr 3rd, 2007 @ 4:56am

    Re: Watermarking?

    I don't see your point. My problems with DRM is that it prevents fair use -- transcribing the music to a more convenient format. If I start giving away copies illegally, I expect to held liable. As long as a watermark stays out of my fair use, so what?

    EMI may finally be on to something. There are a number of individual songs I would like to purchase, but not enough to buy a whole album. I have never downloaded any music -- won't go illegal, and the legal stuff had too many unacceptable restrictions.

    When they get clever and let you assemble a 12 song playlist at the album price, things will really take off.

     

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  34.  
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    Wizard Prang, Apr 3rd, 2007 @ 9:24am

    Re: still not right for me

    $0.99 is a reasonable price.

    I'm not sure that I agree, when fifteen DRM -protected songs cost more than a DRM-free CD.

    When high-quality MP3s are $0.50 or less I will start buying. Until then it is cheaper to and more convenient to buy the CD.

    But that's just me.

     

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  35.  
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    Logan Durand, Apr 3rd, 2007 @ 10:27am

    Ordinarily I would applaud the idea of DRM free music on iTunes, but they completely screwed up by raising prices. Adding 30 cents to the price of the song is simply another way for Apple to hold your music hostage: Pay us more money, or we'll give you lower quality music with DRM.

    It should also be noted that Apple isn't raising the quality of the music - their just lowering it less. Until I can buy songs in FLAC or some other lossless codec, I won't be buying music online.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    nickolas, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 4:21am

    Re: whole album - no DRMs - 2 million tracks

    I just read about this new independent online music store, Justmusicstore.com. Other than the fact that it is DRM free, the reason it is noteworthy is because Just Music Store exhibits just the kind of innovation that will explode in a world without DRM. At Amie Street, songs change price (from 0.15$ to 39 cents). Artists get % of the revenues from their work.

    As you would expect, you'll find music from ALL major and independent record labels (they host over 2 million tracks). But Just Music Store is proving that there is more than one business model for digital music downloads, and that e-retailers can make a go of selling digital downloads with or without DRM.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    logan sucksdick, Mar 17th, 2008 @ 11:13am

    Re: stupid painting...

    z0mg you suck... you are a fag and you have way too much time on your hands... go suck a dick...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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