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Apple reduces price of unrestricted iTunes songs

Times Staff Writer

Apple Inc. said Tuesday that it was lowering the price of songs it sells without anti-piracy software from $1.29 to 99 cents, the standard price for a copyright-protected song purchased on its online music store iTunes.

The move comes a month after Amazon.com Inc. launched its online music store, Amazon MP3, which sells songs without copyright restrictions for 89 cents to 99 cents.

In August, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced it would sell some of its songs without restrictions for 94 cents each.

Apple’s price cut was not in response to competition, spokesman Tom Neumayr said.

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Consumers have complained that anti-piracy restrictions limit what they can do with music they buy from iTunes and other services. The restrictions, known as digital rights management, limit copying digital music on any device or computer.

In the past, music companies have wanted the software to stop copyrighted songs from being spread over the Internet for free.

But more recently, the music industry has been torn over the issue of selling songs digitally without copyright protection. In an open letter, Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, said the music industry should drop anti-piracy software to help boost digital sales of music.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple has become the third-largest seller of music in the U.S., a position that has made some music companies nervous. Universal Music, for example, has not renewed its iTunes contract and has teamed with other online retailers.

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In May, Apple began selling tracks from a 150,000-song catalog from EMI Group without copyright restrictions in a service called iTunes Plus. The songs also come with higher sound quality.

Apple does not give out sales figures for iTunes. But Neumayr said iTunes Plus has been “incredibly popular.” The company plans to add more than 2 million songs from independent labels.

Separately, Apple said it would begin selling the newest version of its Macintosh operating system Oct. 26. Called Leopard, it will hit the market after a four-month delay caused by the need for Apple engineers to finish work on the iPhone.

The software will cost $129 for a single user and $199 for a family pack that can be installed on as many as five computers in one household. It includes improvements to e-mail and instant messaging and new features such as a file backup program called Time Machine.

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Apple shares rose $2.60 to $169.58.

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michelle.quinn@latimes.com


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