Music Industry Debates Copy Controls

      October 02, 2007 09:51

      One of the major issues facing the global music industry is the debate over locking MP3 music files with DRM, or digital rights management.

      On Sep. 25, Amazon, the U.S. online retail giant, announced the launch of a digital music store selling DRM-free tracks -- meaning customers can play their downloaded music on any device.

      Amazon's move is seen as a direct challenge to Apple, whose iTunes stores is the leading digital music retailer. All of Amazon's tracks are DRM-free, while Apple's are not.

      DRM is a code that restricts how files can be played and shared. Tracks with DRM can typically only be played on the device that they were first downloaded to.

      Latecomers to the online music world like Wal-Mart and Universal Music sought a new strategy by selling DRM-free tracks. With Amazon's new store, the industry is firmly divided into two groups -- pro-DRM and anti-DRM.

      Korea's music labels and copyright holders support DRM. Currently, users who download tracks through SK Telecom's Melon service can only play those files on select phones. Other major online music retailers such as Muz and Dosirak also sell DRM tracks.

      Korean retailers have had little success with DRM-free tracks. Bugsmusic is a prime example. The online store tried selling DRM-free tracks, but changed its policy in May after strong opposition from copyright holders.

      Online file swapping site Soribada offers DRM-free tracks through a monthly subscription service, but its sales have been falling. Why are Korean music listeners uninterested in DRM-free music? Simple: they don't pay to download music.

      According to the music industry, 70 percent of Korean consumers download pirated music for free. "Selling DRM-free music files didn't attract new consumers," a Bugsmusic official said. "Instead, offering DRM-free tracks through a subscription system ended up pushing existing subscribers to other providers."

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