Amazon dropped a bomb today by announcing it would drop digital rights restrictions on music downloads when it launches an online music store later this year. It’s the latest in a series of blows to DRM, and signals a larger shift in the music industry.
For those that don’t know, Digital Rights Management is protective coding placed on files to keep them from being pirated. Remember, a couple of years ago all of the big majors took a hard line in support of DRM, but in the last several months that unanimity has frayed. EMI announced it would begin selling music downloads without DRM (albeit at a higher price), while Warner and Universal are currently testing selling music without DRM.
With a major retailer like Amazon going DRM free, it puts a lot of pressure on the other major to follow EMI’s lead. Here’s an interesting column from the Washington Post about what this all means.