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iTunes Converts To All DRM-Free Tracks

Cupertino, Calif. — Apple today followed through on previously announced plans to offer all songs in its iTunes store without digital rights management (DRM) restrictions, joining sites such as Amazon and Rhapsody. Apple also began offering tiered pricing instead of offering all songs at the same price.

The DRM-free songs on Apple’s iTunes store will be playable on any consumer electronics device, music-playing cellphone and networked music system that supports the AAC format.

Apple began offering DRM-free AAC tracks from EMI and independent labels in 2007, and in January began offering 8 million of its 10 million songs DRM-free. The remaining 2 million were just shorn of their protection.

Also today, RealNetworks’s Rhapsody a la carte download service converted to tiered pricing, but Rhapsody’s MP3 tracks have been DRM-free since last year. Likewise, Verizon Wireless yesterday converted to tiered pricing for its MP3 downloads to PCs. Verizon has been making DRM-free MP3 downloads available to PCs since last year in a partnership with RealNetworks. It makes protected files available as over-the-air downloads to cellphones.

Amazon also offers DRM-free MP3 tracks at multiple prices.

Apple’s 256kbps songs, based on the labels’ wholesale prices, are priced 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29. Most albums are still priced at $9.99. Apple previously sold unprotected AAC songs at two prices: 99 cents for lower bit-rate files and $1.29 for 256kbps files. Protected songs were also 99 cents.

The price tiers from Rhapsody and Verizon Wireless match the iTunes tiers. Verizon said it set aside 69 cents for most catalog releases, 99 cents for most major contemporary releases and $1.29 for new releases and best-selling releases.