SEATTLE - Web retailer Amazon.com Inc. launched its
much-anticipated digital music store yesterday with nearly 2.3 million songs,
none of them protected against copying.
The store, Amazon MP3, lets shoppers buy and download individual songs or
entire albums. The tracks can be copied to multiple computers, burned onto CDs
and played on most types of PCs and portable devices, including Apple Inc.'s
iPod and Microsoft Corp.'s Zune.
Songs cost 89 cents to 99 cents each and albums sell for $5.99 to $9.99.
Major music labels Universal Music Group and EMI Music Publishing have
signed on to sell their tracks on Amazon, as have thousands of independent
labels. The company said several smaller labels are selling their music without
copy protection for the first time on the Amazon store, including Rounder
Records and Trojan Records.
Amazon's store competes with Apple's market-leading iTunes, which is also
offering some songs without so-called digital rights management technology,
which prevents unauthorized copies from playing.
Although DRM helps stem illegal copying, it can frustrate consumers by
limiting the type of device or number of computers on which they can listen to
music. Copy-protected songs sold through iTunes generally won't play on devices
other than the iPod, and iPods won't play DRM-enabled songs bought at rival
EMusic.com Inc., another popular download site, also sells tracks in the
DRM-free MP3 format but, like Amazon's store, doesn't offer music from some
major labels that still require anti-piracy locks.
Bill Carr, Amazon's vice president for digital music, said it will be up to
customers to use the music they buy legally.
"By and large, most customers just want a great, legitimate way to buy the
music they want," Carr said. "What the vast majority of labels believe is that
they will sell more music by giving customers what they want...by enabling
DRM-free MP3 - than by continuing to confuse customers or force them to choose
methods that are not legal, because the legitimate alternatives are not good."
But David Card, an analyst at Jupiter Research, said in an interview that
"having two out of four labels doesn't cut it." Warner Music Group Corp. and
have not agreed to sell music on Amazon MP3, and Card pointed out that
Universal and EMI have made only parts of their catalogs available without copy