Is DRM-free music truly free?

Q: Apple is talking about DRM-free music. What is DRM?

A: DRM stands for digital rights management. Simply put, it is the technology that has prevented you from purchasing a song on iTunes and then distributing the purchased song to your friends.

Despite the wild success of iPods and iTunes, Apple has taken a lot of heat for including digital rights management with its songs. The reason is that many people want to play songs purchased from iTunes on MP3 players other than iPods. With the new DRM-free music offered by Apple, users can do just that. There is no restriction on what device the music can or cannot be played on.

The new DRM-free music will cost 30 cents more than a standard song with DRM but there is an additional benefit-the DRM-free songs will be much higher quality than their 99 cent counterparts.

Wondering if there is a catch? Well. kind of. Techies were quick to point out that while there is nothing now preventing you from distributing a song you purchase to all of your friends or posting it on the Internet, each DRM-free song has your user ID and email address embedded in the song file making it easy for authorities to determine the source of the illegally distributed song file.

This post was originally broadcast Friday, June 15, 2007 on Tech Talk with Noobie, a weekly radio show on WCBK 102.3 FM in Martinsville, Indiana. Tech Talk with Noobie airs every Friday between 11:30 a.m. and noon. If you have a question you would like Noobie to answer on the air, simply e-mail your question to [email protected].