Yahoo’s DRM-free music

Yahoo! have released their first music download in MP3 format without digital rights management (DRM) copy protection. This means the track can be played on any hardware device, or played using the software and operating system of your choice.

The track in question is A Public Affair by Jessica Simpson. What is most surprising is that the record label is none other than Sony BMG, which had a lot of bad press last year after selling CDs that used virus-like techniques to hide copy protection software on people’s Windows PCs.

Yahoo! say they have “been publicly trying to convince record labels that they should be selling MP3s for a while now”, and that “DRM doesn’t add any value for the artist.” Sentiments I’m sure many music fans would agree with.

But before we get too excited, the track they are offering is customised, with a chosen name inserted into the lyrics. There are hundreds of names to choose from on the website. The track also costs $1.99 instead of the more usual $0.99: Yahoo! say this is paying for the personalisation, not for the lack of DRM.

However, isn’t the personalisation in reality a form of DRM, and an effective one at that? If someone buys the version of the song with the name “Aaron”, it’s not so appealing for anyone who was hoping to hear “Zena”. While not as restrictive as proper DRM, it still places limits on the number of people would want an illicit copy. Whether Sony BMG would be willing to allow their standard, non-personalised songs to be released in this format is another matter.

So will we see further DRM-free downloads from Yahoo? Only time will tell.

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