A few weeks ago after a visit to the Mac repair shop for my ailing MacBook, one of my favorite albums of the year, the soundtrack to Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park, stopped working on my iTunes because I apparently had used the music on too many computers. Which was a load of crap, of course. I had done no such thing. But the "digital rights management"-protected file was the final arbiter, so I have to buy the damn soundtrack again. Apparently, this will no longer be a problem.
Under an expected announcement at the annual MacWorld convention in San Francisco, CNET is reporting that Apple has reached an agreement with the three remaining major label holdouts to offer its digital tracks unprotected. Which is big news, yes, but it was inevitable. The three majors, Universal, Sony/BMG, and Warner Brothers (along with EMI, which was already offering DRM-free files through iTunes) are already selling unprotected MP3s through Amazon, so it's not like this is a revolutionary move. (Though it doesn't bode well for Amazon's MP3 store, because that was the only thing it had going for it.)
But according to CNET, Apple will also drop prices of catalog tracks to 79 cents, and raise hits and hot items above the company's usual 99 cent price per track. Whether there will be an outcry on this point has yet to be determined, but I'm more interested in whether they'll be offering higher quality sound files; the company currently offers 128 kbps AAC files, which they say "should sound as good as or better than a 160 kbit/s MP3 file." But boutique online music stores like Other Music offer ultra-high-quality files at 256 kbps, and there's no "should" about whether they offer CD quality; they do. Here's hoping that Apple will offer better sound with their files while they're bringing about changes.
(via The Daily Swarm)