Sony BMG will drop (some) digital music DRM this year


Sony BMG is dropping DRM. That makes it the last major record label to (at least partially) do so.

The details of Sony BMG’s scheme aren’t finalized just yet, but it’s expected to begin with a promotion (teaming up with Pepsi) during the Super Bowl, beginning on February 3. Pepsi will give away some 1 billion songs during the promotion, some of which will be Justin Timberlake ones. (Timberlake is signed to Jive, which is owned by Sony BMG.) These songs will be DRM-free. And then the world will explode.

Why, all of a sudden, is Sony BMG dropping DRM, especially when Sony itself has such a sterling record with copy protection? One reason could be the Amazon store. The label could want to wrest control of the digital download market from Apple and cooperate with a company, Amazon, that is more likely to play nice. (Where “play nice” means bending to its will as it relates to price and other variables.)

It’s too easy and too early to say this will be a win for consumers because if it ends up giving Sony BMG carte blanche to sell songs for whatever prices it wants—I doubt Amazon will fight it too much given that it simply wants a piece of the digital music pie—we all could pay sky high prices for music again.

For now, though, if it actually happens, kudos to Sony BMG. What matters now is what it does from here on out.

Sony BMG Plans to Drop D [BusinessWeek]