Sony BMG has dropped digital rights management restrictions from its MP3 catalog of music that will soon be available through its new download service, Platinum MusicPass. Sony BMG is the last record label to offer its catalogue free of copyright protection.
Digital Journal — It’s about time, music fans are saying. Sony BMG announced the launch of a download service that will make available Sony tracks free of copyright protection. Platinum MusicPass will sell digital album cards — like gift cards — for $12.99, available at retailers, and MP3s can be downloaded onto home computers. DRM restricts music from being shared and copied, and labels that use DRM technology are under fire for not responding to the changing face of the music industry.
The service will be available in the U.S. starting Jan. 15, and Canada can enjoy the service starting sometime in the first quarter of 2008. No international plans have been announced.
Offering DRM-free music is a major move for Sony BMG. It was the last record company holding out from embracing the digital age, instead happy to load DRM onto its latest CDs. But the company responsible for giving us Celine Dion and Three Days Grace wants to finally embrace the Net.
Thomas Hesse, President, Global Digital Business & U.S. Sales for Sony BMG Entertainment, said in a statement:
We're happy to be participating in the launch of a new physical format of digital music for retail. We look forward to learning how physical products can help grow the digital marketplace.
Sony BMG is trying to play catch-up in the digital realm. Last month, Warner Music Group promised to offer music without copyright protection on Amazon.com’s download store. Universal Music Group is running trials on stripping DRM from its digital catalogue through the end of January, and EMI announced a deal with iTunes where it would offer its music without copyright protection.
It’s about time Sony BMG wised up to the digital direction its competitors are heading. For too long Sony BMG was content to attack file-sharers and threaten lawsuits, all the while twiddling its thumbs when it came to its own online ambitions. Perhaps Sony BMG wanted to play wait-and-see as EMI and UMG and Warner pushed forward with DRM-free partnerships. It’s never too late to get with the program; Sony BMG still has a chance to save face in 2008.
But will its MusicPass service take off like Sony BMG envisions? iTunes is the runaway leader in digital track sales, so it might be smart for Sony BMG to consider running with the big boys instead of trying to create a new service that is unknown and untested.