The future of digital-rights management (DRM) took another blow, as Universal Music tests the effects of selling its music catalog in the unrestricted MP3 format.
The good news is that it looks like it will sell its MP3s at the regular 99-cent price per song (instead of charging more for the lower-quality MP3 format, as EMI is wrongheadedly attempting to do). But Universal Music is playing its own games with this move by making its MP3 catalog available to every online music retailer except iTunes.
That's just it's way of trying to shake Apple's hold on the digital music market. Universal MP3s bought from Amazon or Rhapsody will play on your iPod, but if you buy the same songs from iTunes, they will be wrapped in Apple's DRM software. This is doubly ironic, given Steve Jobs' public stance against DRM. But he cannot take the DRM off of Universal's songs sold on iTunes. Only Universal can. And since Universal is the largest music label, by keeping iTunes out of the MP3 camp for now, it might gain some leverage at the bargaining table with Apple.
Or it might just piss off Steve Jobs, which is never a smart thing to do.
(In other Universal Music news, video-sharing site Veoh filed a preemptive lawsuit against Universal before the music giant could sue Veoh for abetting copyright infringement by its video-uploading members. First YouTube (with Viacom), and now Veoh. It won't be long before every major video site will be embroiled in a lawsuit with an old media company.)