Amazon-Sony Deal Completes MP3 Sweep

Dennis Faas's picture

Amazon has signed a deal to sell MP3 files from artists on the Sony label without copy protection. It's the first site to sign such deals with all four major record labels (Sony, EMI, Universal and Warner) and is a big step forward in its battle with rival iTunes.

The agreement means Amazon can now offer songs without digital rights management (DRM) protection. That's where files are 'locked' so that they can only be used on particular computers or players. Some systems only allow the file to work on the computer which downloaded it, while others allow a limited number of machines to play the tune even restricting it to a particular brand of player.

The idea is that this makes it difficult to produce pirated CDs or to upload songs to file-sharing sites. However, critics claim it punishes those who want to play a file in several places, such as a computer, MP3 player, or home stereo system.  To many, that's a right they deserve once the initial purchase is made.

The DRM-free Sony deal is a major boost for Amazon, which has only been selling MP3 files since September. At the moment the service is available exclusively in the US, and there's no word on it expanding to other markets. (Source:

Amazon now has more than 3 million tracks available without protection. Meanwhile, iTunes, whose deal with EMI last spring was the first to allow unprotected file downloads from a major label, has yet to sign deals with any other major labels. (Source:

Ironically, Steve Jobs, head of iTunes parent company Apple, has called on record labels to drop DRM protection to boost online sales. Given this enthusiasm from Apple, it doesn't seem to make sense that labels would not also sign deals to distribute unprotected files through iTunes.

Perhaps the likeliest explanation is that record companies like Sony fear Apple becoming too dominant -- and too demanding -- in the digital music market.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet