DRM-Free, Sort Of: Rhapsody Still Transitioning Catalog

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Rhapsody joint venture partners MTV Networks and RealNetworks trumpeted a DRM-free launch at the tail end of June.

But music fans are still encountering a considerable amount of protected content, and the catalog remains in transition.  At present, a significant number of songs are encoded as protected, RAX files, instead of the advertised MP3s.

The long list of protected content includes albums from Paul Simon (Songs From The Capeman, Concert In The Park, 1964/1993); Curtis Mayfield (Honesty); Dave Matthews Band (Under The Table & Dreaming, Busted Stuff, Live at Piedmont Park, Listener Supported, others); Sting (Songs From the Labyrinth); Wu-Tang Clan (Iron Flag, The W); Pete Yorn (The Day I Forgot, Westerns, Nightcrawler); David Gray (Live In Slow Motion, White Ladder, A New Day At Midnight); The Who (Live at Leeds, Who Are You, Quadrophenia, others); Method Man (Street Education, Tical 2000: Judgment Day); and Toni Braxton (Libra, Secrets).

Downplaying the matter on Thursday, a RealNetworks executive pointed Digital Music News to “some anomalies,” and noted that the company is actively transitioning the remaining, protected catalog into MP3s.  The executive declined to discuss whether licensing holdups were causing the delays, and the ratio between protected and DRM-free content was not disclosed.  But a limited, informal sampling suggests that a sizable portion of the five million-plus catalog remains DRM-protected, instead of DRM-free.

That conflicts with earlier statements by the company, and could create confusion for users.  “The Rhapsody MP3 catalog will include more than 5 million songs from all four major music labels — Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and EMI — and an extensive number of independent labels,” the group proclaimed during its “Music Without Limitations” announcement on June 30th.

In an FAQ, Rhapsody noted that “tracks not available in MP3 format will continue to be available in RAX format until further notice,” though it remains unclear if consumer can eventually convert their purchased protected files.