Vodafone to offer restriction-free music service

LONDON Wed Mar 11, 2009 12:14pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Vodafone, the world's largest mobile phone group by revenue, is to sell music without any anti-piracy protection in a deal that will allow users to listen to songs on any digital device.

The mobile group said it had signed deals with the world's largest record companies including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and EMI Music to offer their tracks without anti-piracy software called digital rights management.

Music companies are desperate to sign new digital deals as online piracy eats into traditional revenues, while mobile groups are also looking to diversify and increase customer loyalty through new services.

New research by the music business resource TheView said digital recorded music in South East Asia was compensating for declining physical sales for the first time, with the mobile phone the device of choice by consumers.

Vodafone said customers would have over a million tracks to download, from such acts as Coldplay, Duffy and Lily Allen. Pricing will depend on each market.

Vodafone, which is also in talks with music major Warner Music Group, said the deal would enable DRM-free music to be sent to mobile phones and computers, and could then be played on any type of device.

The device, such as an iPod, has to be registered to the Vodafone customer.

The music industry had relied on digital rights management (DRM) as the cornerstone in its fight against illegal downloading but the labels are now offering tracks without the restrictive protection in a bid to drive digital sales.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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