San Francisco Apple Computer is offering a way to download songs that analysts say could give the music industry an effective model for countering the popularity of illegal online song swapping.
The venture draws from all five major record labels in offering more than 200,000 songs -- and includes some big name artists who previously shunned online distribution. Each song costs 99 cents.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company launched the service, iTunes Music Store, after winning the cooperation of record labels. The system, announced Monday, has virtually no copy-protection -- a major concession to consumer demand.
Apple lets customers keep songs indefinitely, share them on as many as three Macintosh computers and transfer them to any number of iPod portable music players. No subscriptions are necessary and buyers can burn unlimited copies of the songs onto CDs.
As CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, Hillary Rosen has led the fight against Napster and its free online music-swapping successors. But she called Apple's new service "cool, cutting edge" in a statement.
Apple does incorporate some minor restrictions -- playlists can be stored on no more than three Macs and once a user burns 10 copies of a playlist onto CDs, they have to "modify" the list before copying again. That can be as simple as shuffling the order of the songs.