Universal Music, iTunes Entertain DRM-Free Possibilities

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Just weeks after the launch of iTunes Plus, executives are now pointing Digital Music News to fresh negotiations between Apple and Universal Music Group.

The iTunes Plus initiative, which spins DRM-free, higher-fidelity tracks at elevated price tags, currently involves EMI exclusively.  Following the iTunes Plus announcement in April, remaining majors Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, and Warner Music Group have stayed committed to content protection, rendering EMI a lone guinea pig.  But according to a number of well-placed sources, including one involved in ongoing negotiations, Universal Music Group is now actively discussing a possible DRM-free play with Apple.

A number of issues are being tossed around by the parties – some old, some new.  Well-worn conversation points include contentious aspects like variable pricing, though fresher dialogue surrounds formatting  specifics related to DRM-free content.  Conversations have also included watermarking technology, according to one source, a concept being positioned by Warner Music Group as part of its upcoming play with Palo Alto-based Lala.  Meanwhile, one highly-placed executive within the UMG organization promised action ahead, possibly in the next few weeks, though specifics ended there.  Others pointed to complicated discussions, ones that have failed to reach resolutions on key issues.