Unlocking harmony

The Baltimore Sun

In recent years, Apple has been a lifeboat for popular music. While sales of CDs plunged, music stores closed and recording companies failed, Apple sold millions of iPod personal music players. The Apple iTunes store became the largest music outlet in the United States, selling countless cuts at 99 cents apiece via the Internet.

Now, Apple is ushering in another music revolution that reflects a larger transformation of the music world. Many iPod owners have long been frustrated by their inability to copy iTunes music tracks into formats that can be played on other machines. That's because Apple installed copyright protection software that blocked such transfers. But Apple announced last week that it was removing the software from its 10 million music tracks. As the Beatles sang, "Life goes on."

Apple made the move as hundreds of independent producers and performers have been transforming the world of music, making it possible for a track posted online to become a viral hit without benefit of a commercial connection. Apple is feeling heat from Amazon, which is offering a competitive music outlet for producers who sell only on the Internet and larger traditional music marketers.

All of this is good news for music lovers who can free their collections from iPod captivity now. And there's a bonus - much of the Apple music inventory will be on sale for 69 cents a cut. Let a thousand melodies bloom!

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