As the mobile music market heats up, the move could put pressure on competitors like Nokia to ditch copyright-protection software.
Vodafone, the world's largest mobile operator, said it would be stripping digital-rights management software from its music subscription service for cell phones and desktop computers.
The company on Thursday said more than a million tracks from Vodafone Music can be purchased and freely transferred between devices. Previously, Vodafone restricted how many times a song could be transferred and limited the types of devices the music could be played on. The deal includes music from EMI, Universal, and Sony, and Vodafone said it's still negotiating with Warner.
"Music is central to many of our customers' lives," said Pieter Knook, Vodafone's Internet services director, in a statement. "By Vodafone pioneering DRM free on mobile and offering MP3s on PC, they will now have the freedom to download tracks from their favorite artists without any device restrictions allowing them to experience their music however they want it, wherever they are."
The company will still retain DRM on the songs that are downloaded with a subscription service. By ditching DRM software, Vodafone may put pressure on other mobile music services. Nokia also has a music plan that gives cell phone users unlimited downloads, but the Comes With Music service has software protection built into the tracks. Cellular carriers and handset makers are seeing a growing demand for services beyond just voice, and mobile music alone is expected to be a $7.3 billion industry by 2011.
Vodafone's decision was likely spurred by Apple's saying it would strip DRM from its iTunes music juggernaut. Apple lets customers upgrade previously purchased music to a DRM-free version for about 30 cents a track, while Vodafone is offering this upgrade for free.
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