No DRM for Amazon

4:40 PM -- This morning, Amazon announced that it will be opening a DRM-free online music store by the end of 2007.

Predictably, they've only promised DRM-free tracks from the trailblazing/desperate EMI, which recently struck a similar agreement with Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), among others. Given that Amazon only named EMI in the announcement, it looks as if they didn't see any point in jumping into the fray as long as DRM was part of the deal. Good for Amazon.

Apple's agreement with EMI charges users an extra 30 cents for the DRM-free file, but also offers a higher bit rate (256 kbit/s as opposed to 192 kbit/s). With Buy.com currently offering 256 kbit/s WMA files at no extra charge, this is actually a step backwards. There's no word on pricing or bit-rate for Amazon, but since Apple's pricing is kind of stupid, I can see EMI undercutting iTunes by giving Amazon the industry-standard $0.99/song, DRM-free. That would give the new kids on the block a leg up.

That's wild and unfounded speculation, but even if Amazon ends up with the same deal as Apple, it'd still be miles ahead of everyone unwilling to take the DRM-free plunge. With Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) reporting possible deals with the rest of the majors, we can officially take them seriously.

— A.L. Friedman, Editor at Large, Light Reading

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