Is Amazon Working On A DRM-Free Music Download Store?

from the recognizing-apple's-achilles-heel dept

I remember conversations from as far back as 1998 about whether or not should offer a downloadable music store — but the company has always been cautious despite plenty of rumors. Way back in 2003, there were rumors that the company would team up with Apple to somehow offer iTunes songs through — a rumor that failed to pan out. Earlier this year, there were rumors that Amazon was talking to record labels about, once again, trying to launch its own music download store, perhaps with its own hardware as well (suggesting someone confused the offering with Microsoft’s ill-fated Zune product). However, this summer it was reported that Amazon had decided that it wasn’t worth competing with Apple in music downloads, given how strong Apple’s position in the market has been.

However, perhaps recent revelations have opened Amazon’s eyes to Apple’s big achilles heel: the copy protection they use. The record labels, for all their obsession over copy protection, know that Apple’s use of copy protection has given the company tremendous leverage over them in negotiations over pricing for digital downloads. They’ve also just started to understand that there’s value in selling unprotected MP3s. With all that in mind, the latest rumor (as submitted by John) is that Amazon is back on the negotiating trail, pitching the record labels on a DRM-free music download store. If they’re smart, they’d be pitching it as a way to break Apple’s stranglehold on the market — but given how most of the other Amazon music download store rumors have panned out, we’re not holding our breath. However, the rumor also notes that Amazon is supposedly offering variable pricing on songs — something that the record labels have been pushing for (unsuccessfully) for years with Apple. So, perhaps it’s a bit of horse trading: Amazon gives the labels variable pricing, if they agree to give up copy protection. Still, after seeing just how awful Amazon’s foray into video downloads has been, you’d have to hope that they would only use that experience to learn what not to do with any new offering.

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Comments on “Is Amazon Working On A DRM-Free Music Download Store?”

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Petréa Mitchell says:

Re: im sure im...

“Im sure im just stating what everyone already knows…”

Sadly, the vast majority of people buying DRMed music do not know that. They only know that one day they try to make a copy for some reason that makes sense to them and it doesn’t work.

Has anyone ever done a study trying to quantify the cost of DRM to hardware/software makers and retailers in the form of support calls saying “Hey, my computer doesn’t work, I can’t copy this thing?”

refize says:

Another great DRM-free mp3 store is Their holiday’s bonus scheme (till 23:59:59 12/31/2006) is amazing. I’ve deposited $30 and got $60 credited into my account. I mean it’s already cheap (price per song is only $0.15) and now with bonuses like that, you can say that one song costs ONLY $0.075. SEVEN cents for DRM-free mp3? I DEFINITELY CAN LIVE WITH THAT:)

Bob says:

Audio Watermarking will be the new DRM

No one here has mentioned Audio Watermarking. Audio Watermarking allows companys to embed copyright information into an MP3 file. The benefit is that it is undetectable by listeners and it will stay with the file when converted to other audio formats. Even if the MP3 file is broadcast over a loudspeaker and recorded, the watermark stays with the file!

If you plan on sharing your watermarked MP3 on a peer-to-peer network, be aware that the ability for these companys to scan file sharing networks for these watermarks also exsists.

I believe watermarking will effectivly solve the file sharing problem in that it will give users the freedom to move any song file on any player, but also will deter sharing over networks by putting the fear of detection in place.

Just my two cents.

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