Look out iTunes. Amazon.com has announced it will begin offering millions of songs from more than 12,000 record labels by the end of the year, in MP3 format, all free of digital rights management (DRM). DRM is the software that limits how media can be played, copied and stored.
Apple’s iTunes has been under fire for several years now because its service sells music exclusively using Apple’s “FairPlay” DRM software. FairPlay limits the playability of music to iTunes and the myriad iPod portable media players. That was until Apple announced a deal with EMI Music to offer its catalog of music without DRM, and at twice the bit rate it previously offered. Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs has said several times that he abhors DRM, however it’s necessary to satisfy the piracy concerns of the music labels Apple does business with.
Apple has expressed frustration lately that consumers only purchase individual tracks rather than complete albums because they know that the music they purchase from iTunes has limited playability. Apple expects more than half its catalog to be available sans DRM by the end of the year and has announced a “Complete My Album” program that credits consumers for the amount they’ve paid for the individual tracks if they agree to purchase the rest of the album on iTunes.