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Big four record companies to offer copy-free albums on a chip

US memory card maker Sandisk is teaming with four major record labels to offer copy protection-free songs for cellphones.

Sandisk will put albums from EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner artists on to Flash memory cards which fit into an SD slot (now de rigeur on more expensive phones, and starting to appear on models further down the food chain).

While songs have been put on Flash memory cards before, the new project’s twist is that the MP3 tracks will not be protected by any form of digital rights management software. That means someone who buys an album should be able to play it on – or copy it to – their PC, or any portable player with an SD memory card slot.

On the plus side, the albums-on-a-card will be widely available through giant retailer WalMart. On the negative, the experiment will be confined to just 29 albums.

NBR’s take: postage stamp-sized SD cards make a more convenient alternative to CDs – but while the future of music distribution will definitely favour copy protection-free options, it will be those offered online (like the extra-cost DRM-free EMI tunes now offered for iTunes download, and now Vodafone New Zealand’s Live Music Store too) that carry the day over any kind of physical media.

More by by Chris Keall