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back to article Amazon opens DRM-free music store

Amazon.com has opened its DRM-free music store for business. Songs are available for $0.89 per song, or $6 to $10 for an album. Amazon applies "fingerprints" rather than "locks" to music, the idea being that music exchanges can be tracked at a later date, rather than prevented from the outset. Files are encoded in the (old) MP3 …

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US Only

It looks like most, perhaps all, music on the site can't be downloaded outside the US.

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Anonymous Coward

USA only

Bugger I can see a couple of albums I want, if I could get them at the $8.99 price Amazon has then I'd be ecstatic. It would be nice to get the album cover photo too.

Looks like a clear winner, but I won't know for sure until the Apple and Microsoft turfers try to FUD it with their 'music will be p2p instantly' and 'quality is not as good as my WMA/AAC. Queue the turfers in 3,2,1....

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Looks promising!

This looks very promising indeed. Initial specs look like higher quality audio (256Kbps VBR) will be available than many of their competitiors.

Here is a direct link to the new service offering:

http://www.amazon.com/b/ref=sa_menu_dmusic2/102-0572457-7145764?ie=UTF8&node=163856011&tag=opensounds-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325

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Anonymous Coward

Re: USA only

Well, I downloaded an album just nicely and I live somewhere outside the US, and my VISA billing address says so too. All you need to do is add another billing address within the US (no need to add a VISA # to it, you can also keep the old one as default)

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Would love to pay for this stuff

Never thought I'd say that about music downloads... but I've already spotted some stuff I'd like to buy, it's DRM-free and the price is about what I'm prepared to pay for download music, even allowing for VAT.

If only they'd actually sell it to me, they might make a bit of money.

The question is, what will happen when this finally arrives for UK users? Will we be forced to pay pounds for dollars?

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"Almost music-free, too" Er, wut??

Isn't it a tad unfair to label Amazon's offering "almost music-free" when they have 2 million tracks?

Sure, the other two big sellers have, according to the article, up to 1.5x that number but they've been around for longer and, either way, 2 million is hardly a small number of tracks, is it?

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Those 3 million songs on iTunes...

...is that the total number available, or the number available DRM-free on iTunes Plus (which was a smallish fraction of the total, last time I checked)?

If it's the former, then Amazon have played a blinder in persuading the major labels to allow an unprecedented number of tracks to be released without DRM, and perhaps the headline needs to splash that fact more prominently - this might even count as a serious nail in DRM's coffin.

If it's the latter, well, ho hum - iTunes competitor in 'not quite as good as iTunes' shock ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: USA Only, it does work

Putting in any USA address does work (I live in Texas on Prairie Chapel Ranch now!) , it's easy to see how you can overspend though, I wanted 2 albums, but then decided I'd like to get a few I'd missed, and .... well $200 later I think I'd better give it a rest.

I wonder how long it takes before they close the loophole and do some extra verification to stop non USA orders?

Also I wonder what the official UK price will be, I doubt they'll do the 4.5 quid an album of the USA price. That clause in the copyright law that makes it a crime to import copyrighted goods parallel to the official import channel means Brits are screwed, they'll always have to pay more than other countries.

Isn't it time that clause was removed?

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Anonymous Coward

Best so far

IMHO, Amazon's new offering is the best so far - which isn't to say that it's perfect of course. But reasonably-priced, high-quality, DRM-free downloads are a heck of a start. In many ways, it beats "free" because (1) the quality's reliably better, and (2) if I want, I can download an entire album at a go. No hunting around for the less-popular tracks and sorting through the dross that so pollutes LimeWire et al these days.

Their biggest flaws? Size of catalog really tops the list. OTOH, it's still a LOT better than physical storefronts used to have, and hopefully it will improve with time. Not to mention, I've had a lot of trouble finding more obscure stuff through P2P lately too. In the glory days of Gnutella, you could find any music known to man if you let the search run for a while.

Other minor nitpicks: Although they do support a web-only interface, you can't use it for full albums. And I'd like to add stuff to a cart and then check out at the end, rather than go through payment for every track/album I buy. Odd that Amazon doesn't get this, their cart infrastructure is the best around.

But at the end of the day, it's the first pay-for-download service that I've spent more than a couple of quid at, and that I could imagine myself coming back to. I've looked at eMusic, btw, and never got past their splash page because they won't let me browse their catalog until I sign up. Hello?!?

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uk price

"Songs are available for $0.89 per song, or $6 to $10 for an album."

so when it hits the uk that'll be

Songs are available for £0.89 per song, or £6 to £10 for an album.

if not more, seems to be how it normally works, they just swap the symbol rather than using exchange rates

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Application crashes - reinstall caused queued music to be deleted

I live in the UK and was able to get application with no problem. However, on downloading my first 'Amazon download' file, and launching the download app, it promptly crashed and no amount of starting it could get it to work.

An uninstall/reinstall allowed me to run the app, but the album I purchased and had not yet managed to download was now missing.

There's no proxy options in the app preferences, and I have a feeling that the proxy server on my internet connection caused the app to crash when trying to download.

There doesn't appear to be a way to re-download the album that I bought, so I can't even try it from my non-proxied home PC.

All in all, not a great first experience!

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Anonymous Coward

Turns out to be illegal in UK anyway

"(a) the act of putting into circulation in the EEA copies not previously put into circulation in the EEA by or with the consent of the copyright owner...."

Seems that nice little clause the BPI got in copyright law will kill it anyway.

It is a crime in the UK to import REAL LEGITIMATE PAID FOR PRODUCT if the copyright holder objects. This means we cannot buy music tracks from Amazon if the music copyright holder objects to it, but we could import the MP3 player to play them on.

So even when Amazon is selling it at $8.99 in USA and selling it at £10 in the UK, we still won't be allowed to import it. Man I hate it when ministers get all friendly with lobbyists and scr*w over the public that elected them. Free trade is good, right up until some lobbyists gives them a back-hander, then suddenly free trade is bad, and a crime and Britain shall pay more than anywhere else for the same product because erm,... You know I'm lost to think of an excuse for that. What was the excuse the minister gave when that was that special interest clause was slotted into a copyright bill?

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

@Tom

"If it's the former, then Amazon have played a blinder in persuading the major labels to allow an unprecedented number of tracks to be released without DRM, and perhaps the headline needs to splash that fact more prominently - this might even count as a serious nail in DRM's coffin."

Fair shout. I'm pretty impressed with the selection here so far. But not so impressed with the UK prices...

Maybe Apple just came to the market too early - got lumbered with the DRM albatross - and late entrants like Amazon.com will clean up? It's happened often enough: the US and mainframes, for example ;-)

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"Fingerprints" applied to audio?

Is this one of those supposedly inaudible watermark jobs, that are actually audible? Bitrate cranked up to 256k just so they can encode their own layer of noise more accurately?

If it's just a hash in the ID3 tags it's all good, but if it's in the audio I'll be steering clear.

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EMusic & Amazon

I was with emusic for a while, but it's only worthwhile if you grab a significant portion of your allowance every month. I didn't have the time or inclination to trawl through the catalogue every couple of weeks (I have a fairly limited selection of stuff I'm interested in).

Still, you can browse without signing up - http://www.emusic.com/browse/all.html

I like the amazon offering - we have a US office, so address is no problem (yet). Seems to have a better selection than EMusic, for the stuff I want anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Time to get out the Proxys again?

Usually when I come across a US only web site, I turn on a http proxy.

But these days I just use good old mp3sparks.com AKA allofmp3.com

Done me well for over 3 years now.

One of ITs best kept secret it was.

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Subscription

I've been using Rhapsody for about 6 months. I regularly delete music I don't like, but I've still managed to build a library of 1820 tracks. It would take me over 10 years to make up the price difference using Amazon's service. That's only if I don't want any new music during that time. As much as I would love ditching DRM, the subscription model has saved me over a thousand dollars.

Rhapsody @ $15 / month: $90

Amazon @ .89c / song: $1,619.80

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Label names

"Amazon claims that several labels - Sugar Hill and Trojan - have never sold digital music in unprotected form before"

Let me guess, Trojan is owned by Sony? If not, they should be.

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Other stores

Many other stores have been selling drm free digital downloads for years, but here we have the Amazon store being written up by many watchers as if it is the first.

I work for tunetribe.com where we have been selling 320kbps MP3 for a long time - with no watermarking!

We have also had Trojan Records in this format for a year.

We do not have the budget to rival the Amazon marketing spend but I would hope that UK based independent stores would be noticed, and compared at least.

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Anonymous Coward

Title

I regularly use TuneTribe, but it's hit and miss whether the tracks I want will be DRM free or not. There may be no watermark, but there are a lot of tracks in WMA format:

"Specifically, the WMA (Windows Media Audio) file is a format that was created by Microsoft and can be used for copyrighted and limited-use music. WMA files are only playable on certain players and devices: they are not compatible with iTunes and iPods. They also are subject to Digital Rights Management software (DRM: see below for definition)."

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Looks good, except for the fine print

The problem with eMusic is it's only 28-43¢ per song if you download the maximum per month. That is the one and only reason I never signed up with them. Most of the music I listen to is on minor labels, so the catalog looks great to me.

I have some quibbles with the Terms of Service (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/105-6510517-0173254?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200154280) though. Can't lend the CD you burned to a friend? Umm...

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Anonymous Coward

Only idiots would download fingerprinted songs

Someone steals my ipod on the train and uploads my songs on an anonymous file sharing network. In the "guilty until proven innocent" culture prevailig in the entertainment industry I will get prosecuted, not the thief. Even if this is unlikely to happen the thought that it *could* happen is not a burden I am prepared to bear. Amazon? NO THANKS.

How ironic that it's safer to download illegally (while taking precaucions such as IP spoofing) than to download legal songs fingerprinted with your name. The music industry seems to be doing all it can to drive itself into ruin.

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