Ars Technica reports that Amazon will sell DRM-free music from its new online store in May. This follows Apple’s and EMI’s announcement of a similar arrangement on the iTunes music store, also to be launched in May.
Amazingly enough, Steve Jobs may have precipitated an industry-wide change with his “Thoughts on Music” essay. The industry now seems ready to rethink its revenue models [NYTimes] — the digital marketplace is set for a big shakeup.
To be pessimistic for a moment, the worst-case scenario is that both the Apple/EMI and Amazon ventures fail and that failure is blamed on the public’s disinterest in, or toleration of, DRM. It must be noted that even if you buy non-DRM music (e.g. CDs), under current law, you can still be sued for copyright infringement if you share them. By technical or legal means, music buyers are prevented from fully using even DRM-free tracks.
So the upcoming competition between DRM and non-DRM downloads will be inconclusive even if you believe the market can sort out this issue. On the other hand, I bet Amazon will be quite successful… and Apple has already won the PR points it was looking for.