A couple of interesting items surfacing after last week’s announcement that Universal Music Group would sell DRM-free tracks but not through Apple’s iTunes:
First, Google is getting into the music business, which it has said it never wanted to be in. Google is working with Universal by selling search advertising for Universal artists, then directing search users to Gbox, a Cupertino, Calif. company that will actually sell the songs. Google will make money off the search queries, while Universal handles the retail transaction. This allows Google, which has long been interested in the music business but insistent that it didn’t want to be in the music business, to have it both ways. But it’s a distinction without much difference at this point. Google can say it’s not in the online news business, either, but it’s certainly competing with online news purveyors.
Second, Universal’s MP3 tracks will contain a watermark that allows the company to track the distribution of the songs. It’s designed to help the company hunt down music distributed over P2P networks, which remains illegal even if Universal has taken the digital locks off. Much like the codes that Apple has embedded into the DRM-free tracks it sells from EMI, the marks aren’t supposed to identify individual buyers. But they will still cause a stir among the subset of technorati who believe that information and everything else ought to be free. Gerd Leonhard’s Blog
Related: Universal’s DRM Drop: Just an Apple Negotiating Ploy