'Marketplace' Report: Digital Rights Management Is copy protection software on its way out? Music bought from iTunes will only play on an iPod, for example, but those days may be numbered.

'Marketplace' Report: Digital Rights Management

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From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.

What a complication for downloaders. You know, if you want to get music to play on your iPOD, you have to be directly tied to iTunes music. Different MP3 players can't play iTunes music. Now Amazon.com is launching a new online music store. And analysts are betting that record companies might soon give up on selling music with restrictions on how it can be copied and played.

MARKETPLACE's Bob Moon is joining us now.

Bob, it seems the music industry's been very careful about making sure the music it sells online is protected with copy controls so people can't swap it around and give it to each other. But are there signs maybe they're going to stop this practice?

BOB MOON: Yeah, that's right. As you mentioned, with Amazon, soon to be the latest to sell this in-the-clear music, this could signal a change here. It all started with Steve Jobs igniting this very heated debate within the recording industry about the value of using what's known as digital rights management protection.

Jobs wants to do away with the copy controls so the music that he sells on iTunes will play on other players and not just iPods. So far the only big recording company that's going along with this is EMI. It's agreed to allow songs to be sold in the widely used MP3 format without copy protection, both on iTunes and now on Amazon.

Amazon is clearly hoping that it can make deals with EMI's rivals before its service kicks off here.

CHADWICK: And what are the chances that the other labels are going to follow the lead of EMI?

MOON: Very good question. Some analysts reacting to this deal with Amazon are predicting that selling music without these controls is now going to become the business reality here. They figure that's what customers want. But others aren't so sure. They point out that Apple, for example, plans to charge a premium price for the songs that it offers without copy protection, and some analysts say it remains to be seen how consumers will react to that.

David Card at JupiterResearch is one of the analysts who's taking a wait and see attitude, although he does tell us that this will give credence to this new movement.

Mr. DAVID CARD (Analyst, JupiterResearch): Don't get me wrong. I think Amazon's move is a big endorsement of the strategy and EMI is being very aggressive in moving forward on this. And indeed we may move eventually towards a world where you will see more or fewer copy-protected songs distributed. But this in and of itself is not enough to tilt the playing field in that direction, I don't believe.

MOON: Card says if music downloaders go forth the higher priced songs heard, that might convinced the other labels to move toward this business model.

CHADWICK: You know, it's not music, is it? I mean, people are downloading movies too. Would Hollywood go along with dropping of digital rights protections?

MOON: Yeah, fat chance. One significant difference here might be that compact discs haven't been copy-protected from the start. But DVDs are encrypted and the analysts all tell us that Hollywood isn't likely to give up on that at all.

CHADWICK, Bob Moon on public radio's daily business show, MARKETPLACE. Thank you, Bob. And MARKETPLACE is from American Public Media.

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