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Zune Service Expands DRM-Free MP3

11/20/2008 10:59:00 AM Eastern

Redmond, Wash. — Microsoft is making changes to its Zune music services with the expansion of DRM-free MP3 downloads to 90 percent of its song selection and the bundling of 10 free permanent downloads per month with its monthly subscription-download service.

Microsoft said it reached agreements with Sony BMG and Universal Music Group to offer those labels’ songs in MP3 format free of digital rights management (DRM) technology restrictions. These downloads join DRM-free MP3 tracks from EMI Music and Warner Music Group and major independent labels, the company said. With the announcement, almost 90 percent of Zune download tracks are available in DRM-free MP3, with additional Sony MBG and Universal tracks “soon” expanding the DRM-free selection to 90 percent of the Zune Marketplace download store, a spokesman said.

Microsoft remains committed to signing up additional small independent labels to bring its DRM-free selection to 100 percent, he added.

Separately, the monthly price of the Zune Pass subscription service remains $14.99/month for access to millions of songs, which can be streamed and downloaded to a PC or, via Wi-Fi, directly to a Zune MP3 player. Subscription downloads, which are rendered unplayable if the subscription expires, can still be shared among up to three PCs and three Zunes. For the same price, however, consumers can now download 10 DRM-free MP3 versions of songs accessed through the subscription service. Those tracks can be burned to a CD or moved to other devices even if the user’s subscription expires.

 “People want the freedom to listen to whatever they want across millions of songs, combined with the confidence that they can keep their favorite tracks forever,” said Chris Stephenson, general manager of global marketing for Zune.

The revised subscription resulted from agreements with major and independent music labels.

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