Report: Sony BMG Set To Go DRM-Free
January 4, 2008 at 5:34 AM (PT)
In a move that would mark the end of a digital music era, SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT is finalizing plans to sell songs without the copyright protection software that has long restricted the use of music downloaded from the Internet, BUSINESSWEEK.COM has learned. SONY BMG, a joint venture of SONY and BERTELSMANN, will make at least part of its collection available without so-called digital rights management, or DRM, software some time in the first quarter, according to people familiar with the matter.
SONY BMG would become the last of the top four music labels to drop DRM, following WARNER MUSIC GROUP, which in late DECEMBER said it would sell DRM-free songs through AMAZON.COM's digital music store. EMI and VIVENDI's UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP announced their plans for DRM-free downloads earlier in 2007.
Details of SONY BMG's plans are expected to emerge in the coming weeks. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE is participating in a SUPER BOWL promotion with PEPSI that will kick off FEB. 3rd and offer free distribution of 1 billion songs from major labels, including SONY BMG, through AMAZON's DRM-free download service, according to a person familiar with the matter. SONY has been experimenting with DRM-free songs for about six months.
The company began giving away DRM-free promotional downloads for recording artists that sell less than 100,000 units, and at least one artist gained mainstream exposure through the effort. "A lot of these tests have led people to believe that maybe this works," says a SONY BMG executive who asked not to be identified. A SONY BMG spokesman declined to comment. AMAZON also declined to comment on its DRM-free deals, beyond what it has disclosed in press releases.