Rhapsody Challenges iTunes With DRM-Free Initiative - InformationWeek

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12:57 PM

Rhapsody Challenges iTunes With DRM-Free Initiative

RealNetworks' Music Without Limits initiative allows potential buyers to listen to complete songs for free, buy DRM-free music, and more.

RealNetworks has announced several new initiatives that could place its digital music service in a better position to compete with Apple.

The company joined MTV Networks to announce Monday that Rhapsody would release interoperable music from all major labels without digital rights management software and restrictions, allow users to stream complete songs, and buy MP3s from anywhere, including online music stores and social networks. It also will integrate digital music with mobile phones through a partnership with Verizon Wireless.

The Music Without Limits initiative will allow consumers to buy music from Rhapsody and its partners and play them on any device, including iPods. Users can find music and listen to complete songs, instead of brief samples, and download them to Rhapsody, RealPlayer, or iTunes. Each consumer can listen to 25 new songs each month before deciding whether to buy the music.

Rhapsody's MP3 catalog includes more than 5 million songs from EMI, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group, as well as independent labels. Most albums will cost $9.99 and singles will cost 99 cents.

Music Without Limits launched with an advertising campaign for broadcast, online, and print outlets. As part of the promotion, Rhapsody will give free albums to the first 100,000 consumers to register with the new store until July 4.

Verizon Wireless customers can buy music from their phones and listen through their handsets. Customers also can download any songs they purchase over the air, in DRM-free format, for their PCs.

In addition to Verizon Wireless, RealNetworks' partners include MTV.com, VH1.com, CMT.com, and Yahoo. RealNetworks said Rhapsody also will power free, full-song playback (for 25 songs a month) across iLike.com and iLike's applications social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, Orkut, and Bebo. After iLike users reach the 25-song-per-month limit, they can sign up for Rhapsody accounts.

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