iTunes 7.2 supports DRM-free 'iTunes Plus' music

An update to Apple’s iTunes software is available for download from Apple’s Web site and through the Software Update system preference. The new version, 7.2, adds support for previewing, purchasing and downloading DRM-free music through the iTunes Store.

"We have always believed that music should be accessible and DRM-free," Chris Bell, Apple's director of worldwide marketing for iTunes, told Macworld. "This is the right direction for the future."

Apple is calling the new music “iTunes Plus,” and plans to offer it alongside the FairPlay-encrypted AAC files it has offered for some time through the iTunes Store. “iTunes Plus” files cost a bit more — $1.29 per track, versus the $0.99 per track for protected files — but have been encoded at a higher bit rate, 256Kbps AAC, instead of 128Kbps AAC, which should yield better audio fidelity.

There are several links to iTunes Plus when you go to the store. Apple is also offering a one-click upgrade for all of your EMI purchased DRM songs. If you choose to upgrade, iTunes gives you the choice to save the original songs on the desktop or delete them from your computer.

"We believe iTunes plus is the future so we made it very simple to upgrade," said Bell.

Apple first announced in early April plans to start offering songs for sale through the iTunes Store that don’t use Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. The company made the announcement with music publisher EMI, and said that all of EMI’s catalog of music and music videos would be available for download sans DRM by the end of May. With the introduction of iTunes 7.2 this week, Apple is set to do just that.

During the April announcement Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that EMI is only the first major label to join with Apple to offer DRM-free music. Jobs predicts that by the end of 2007, more than half the songs on the iTunes Store will be DRM-free.

Bell reiterated Jobs' timeframe and added that "Indie labels are already embracing iTunes Plus and they will be on soon."

Update : Added information from interview with Apple.

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