Yes, in a bizarre twist and turn of fate, the original bad boy of illegal MP3 downloads which then went legit and hooked subscribers into music with Microsoft's digital rights management system has changed tack and announced it is to sell MP3 format tunes. So, OK, maybe not a real return to its roots as you will notice that I said sell, rather give away in a free file-sharing spree.

Still, as a major online music retailer these days the fact that Napster is dumping DRM has to be good news for the consumer. DRM, for those who may not know, prevents the purchaser of a music track from being able to copy it between devices, make multiple backup copies or share the music with friends. Not so hot in a digital age where people have several different devices upon which they might expect to be able to listen to the music which, after all, they have paid for.

Napster are not alone in seeing the bigger picture, as EMI started offering DRM free tracks as an option as long ago as last April via iTunes (although at a higher cost, supposedly because they were of a better audio quality) and Universal is also tinkering with various tracks being free of this copy protection although it's a long way from deciding if this is the future of its back catalogue or not.

Napster itself, despite the announcement, is waiting a few months before starting the DRM free service, and even then while all it's single track and album sales will be available in MP3 format the same does not apply to users of the subscription based service. These poor souls have recently been informed that the prices are going up, and now discover that they will not get the freedom of MP3 format tracks either.

About the Author

A freelance technology journalist for 30 years, I have been a Contributing Editor at PC Pro (one of the best selling computer magazines in the UK) for most of them. As well as currently contributing to, The Times and Sunday Times via Raconteur Special Reports, SC Magazine UK, Digital Health, IT Pro and Infosecurity Magazine, I am also something of a prolific author. My last book, Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online, which was published in 2008 as part of the Science Museum TechKnow Series by John Wiley & Sons. I am also the only three times winner (2006, 2008, 2010) of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year title, and was humbled to be presented with the ‘Enigma Award’ for a ‘lifetime contribution to information security journalism’ in 2011 despite my life being far from over...

Grigor 17

So subscribers pay more and don't even get the service? Man I'd be pissed...