Apple Unlocks iTunes Music to Its MP3 Rivals

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APPLE is to start selling digital music downloads for all makes of MP3 player - ending the exclusive link to its iconic iPod.

The move coincides with a decision by EMI to scrap the 'digital lock' on downloads of music from its artists, who range from Coldplay to The Beatles and Norah Jones.

Currently this lock prevents a buyer from making multiple copies of a digital download to be enjoyed on an MP3 player, a mobile phone or 'burned' onto a CD.

However, EMI is doing away with the system known as DRM - digital rights management - in a move to deliver new 'premium' downloads.

The news was announced at a joint press conference with Apple, the creator of the iPod and the iTunes online store.

EMI claims the new downloads offer much greater clarity and quality, making them equivalent to shop-bought CDs. The company and Apple insist the change will offer consumers much more flexibility and convenience over how they want to listen to their music.

However, all this will come at a price. The premium downloads will be more expensive - at 99p for a single track compared with 79p. Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for 20p per track.

The DRM lock is used across the music industry as a block on the activities of pirates to copy and sell music downloaded from the web.

However the restrictions have been resented by consumers and, to some extent, have held back sales and growth of the digital download market. …