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.