Amazon preps DRM-free music store

Pressure from Apple, Microsoft, and now Amazon could prompt other major labels to follow in EMI Music's footsteps will open an online music store whose songs will not carry copy-protection technology, the Seattle e-tailer announced Wednesday, confirming a move that had recently been rumored.

The company said it will launch the music store "later this year" without providing additional timetable details. But whenever it opens, it will enter a market currently dominated by Apple's iTunes.

The store will sell songs without digital rights management (DRM) technology in MP3 format from EMI Music and about 12,000 other music labels, said.

Buyers will be able to play the songs in a variety of devices, including Windows PCs, Mac OS computers, and iPod and Zune devices, said. They will also be able to burn songs to CDs.

Amazon didn't provide any pricing details for the store's inventory of songs and albums.

Amazon's announcement fits in with a recent trend among sellers of digital songs toward DRM-free downloads. Last month, Apple announced its plan to offer EMI Music's entire digital music catalog at iTunes without DRM protection. Microsoft, which makes the Zune player and operates its accompanying Zune Marketplace, has also come out in favor of DRM-free downloads.

The movement towards eliminating copy protection from downloaded songs hit the spotlight in February, when Apple's CEO Steve Jobs wrote on Apple's Web site that he would gladly sell DRM-free songs on iTunes if the record labels agreed to it.

It remains to be seen if the pressure from Apple, Microsoft, and now will prompt other major labels like Universal, Sony BMG, and Warner to follow in EMI Music's footsteps.