Amazon takes on Apple with copy-protection-free music

The music industry is finally comfortable selling digital music without copy protection, but the huge shift hasn't resulted in dramatically higher sales.

Instead, it produced something that major music labels have long sought: a strong No. 2 competitor to Apple.

Amazon's (AMZN) MP3 store - which sells only songs without copy protection - has quietly become No. 2 in digital sales since opening nearly six months ago. That's even though Apple (AAPL) dominates digital music with its iTunes Store (the second-largest music retailer in the world, after Wal-Mart) (WMT) and its hugely popular iPod.

The push for copy-protection-free music began nearly a year ago, when Apple and major label EMI shocked the industry by announcing a landmark arrangement to sell 150,000 songs without digital rights management (DRM) software. It was the first time a major label had agreed to such terms.

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