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12476Clip: Unprotected music from Apple?

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  • Carl Z.
    Apr 2, 2007
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      <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/02/technology/02music.html>

      Speculation Is in the Air Over EMI and Apple

      By THOMAS CRAMPTON
      Published: April 2, 2007

      PARIS, April 1 — Relations between Apple Inc. and the EMI Group, once
      at odds over the trademark rights to the Apple name, the record label
      of the Beatles, seem to be getting better all the time.

      On Sunday, Steven P. Jobs, the Apple chief executive, announced a
      joint news conference to be held in London on Monday with Eric L.
      Nicoli, chief executive of EMI, the British music giant.

      An Apple spokesman in London had no comment when asked for details,
      but the impending news conference set off a torrent of speculation on
      possible agreements between Apple and EMI. Theories ranged from a
      Yellow Submarine iPod factory-filled with Beatles music to a more
      radical shift toward selling digital music without copy protection.

      Speculation that the Beatles' music, which has been unavailable on
      legitimate digital music services, might soon be licensed for download
      from Apple's iTunes service has been rife since early February, when
      Apple Inc. and Apple Corps, the guardian of the Beatles' music
      interests, announced that they had settled their dispute over the
      technology company's name and its use of an apple logo.

      Both EMI and Apple have recently indicated an interest in making music
      available without antipiracy protection.

      In recent months, EMI has discussed proposals to sell unprotected
      songs through a variety of digital music services that compete with
      Apple, including online retail units operated by RealNetworks and
      Yahoo, according to people briefed on the company's affairs. But those
      plans appeared to stall after the parties could not agree on financial
      terms.

      Mr. Jobs waded into the controversy this year with a letter, posted on
      Apple's Web site, that urged the music industry to abandon the use of
      the digital rights management technologies that limit the ability of
      consumers to transfer music.

      Apple has faced intense criticism from governments and consumer groups
      across Europe over the last year because of the digital protections on
      music sold by iTunes. France passed a law intended to encourage the
      easy transfer of music between digital devices.

      While many independent labels already sell music without copy
      protection, EMI has placed itself at the forefront of the major music
      companies in questioning the usefulness of such protection.

      Last week, Mr. Nicoli told a mobile operators' meeting in Orlando,
      Fla., that test sales of unprotected music by a few artists offered
      some promising results, but did not say whether EMI would expand or
      abandon the practice.

      If the announcement on Monday does involve the Beatles, the experiment
      may be a much-anticipated Yellow Submarine iPod that comes supplied
      with Beatles tracks, according to Mark Mulligan, a vice president at
      JupiterResearch who specializes in digital music.

      "The trademark settlement deal clearly raised the possibility of Apple
      selling EMI music in a physical format," Mr. Mulligan said. "This is
      an original idea and helps Apple with their core business, selling
      devices."

      Such a device had been rumored for introduction on Valentine's Day,
      but never appeared, Mr. Mulligan said. He added that speculation that
      the announcement might involve the sale of music without copy
      protection is a result of EMI's drawn-out negotiations with a number
      of music retailers.

      "Negotiations for sale of unprotected music through retailers,
      including iTunes, Napster and others, just faded out," Mr. Mulligan
      said. "The idea of a major record label selling unprotected music was
      unthinkable a year ago, but is now under serious consideration."

      The possible sale of unprotected music has been driven in part by the
      much larger illegal downloading markets, he said. Some European
      countries have so much piracy that five songs are downloaded illegally
      for each song sold over the Internet, according to JupiterResearch.

      Mr. Mulligan insisted on holding in reserve one theory about Apple's
      plans: "Knowing Apple, they could be bringing out a major surprise we
      have not yet considered."

      Jeff Leeds contributed reporting from Los Angeles.
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