Amazon’s Tune: No DRM

NEW YORK Digital music without copyright protection gained more momentum Wednesday as Amazon.com made it official that it will launch a DRM-free digital music store this year. The electronic retailer plans to partner with more than 12,000 record labels to offer millions of songs for paid download.

EMI Group, which recently raised eyebrows in the industry by signing a DRM-free music deal with Apple’s iTunes Store, is the first major record label to sign on with Amazon.com, making its entire digital catalog available on the planned download service. (DRM stands for “digital rights management.”)

“Amazon.com’s deep understanding of consumers and vast knowledge of music paves the way for a smooth entry into the digital arena,” EMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli said. “Their arrival in the digital music market will be a big advance in addressing the lack of interoperability, which has frustrated many music fans.”

The Amazon partnership follows the announcement last month that EMI would offer its music online DRM-free, meaning that the music can be shared among users and that it will play on any device. The record label houses artists such as Coldplay, Norah Jones and the Rolling Stones.

The DRM issue remains a contentious one in the music industry, however, as other labels refuse to remove copyright protections.

In his company’s quarterly earnings conference call last week, Warner Music Group chairman and CEO Edgar Bronfman said that DRM continues to be an “important element” of his company’s business.

Nonetheless, EMI made even more DRM-free waves Wednesday as it announced more digital deals in Europe.

In France, the label is partnering with online retailer VirginMega, and EMI disclosed a slew of deals that will make its catalog available to more than 20 Internet retailers in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

“We believe that providing consumers with increased quality and interoperability will lead to accelerated growth in digital download sales,” said Stefan Blom, COO of EMI Music Scandinavia.