AOL to Offer Legal MP3 Downloads

AOL said on Thursday it would offer free music downloads through AOLMusic.com that would carry tunes from popular mainstream artists - without digital rights management. The songs would come in the traditional MP3 format without restrictions, meaning the user would be able to do with the track as they pleased.

The selections will change each month, and AOL told BetaNews that 16 artists would be featured at launch. The number of tracks would vary, AOL said, based on agreements between the company and record labels.

While other MP3-based music stores have surfaced in recent months, none have provided mainstream artists due to resistance from the record industry. AOL's offering would be the first legal MP3-based download catalog.

AOL previously offered downloadable tracks in WMA format, but those were restricted by DRM and could not be played on Apple's ubiquitous iPod audio player.

Some of the first artists to be featured include Tommy Lee, Bright Eyes, The Veronicas, Interpol, Dwight Yokum, Hawthorne Heights, Tegan and Sara, The Shins, and Deep Dish.

AOLMusic.com receives about 25.9 million visitors per month.

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