Reports: Nokia Wants DRM-Free Music Store, Comes With Music

Many music services have been dropping DRM to make their wares more popular, now speculation says Nokia (NYSE: NOK) is about to do the same. This thin story at cites “sources” as saying Nokia will remove copy locks from Nokia Music Store in favour of MP3 later this year, with the same planned for Comes With Music, its program in which the cost of unlimited music downloads is bundled in to the cost of a handset, from 2010.

Details are sketchy but Nokia’s global digital music retail director Adam Mirabella confirmed something at least in ChannelNewsAsia (via Engadget): “We have dialogues going with all of our partners and DRM-free is also on the roadmap for the future integration of Comes With Music.”

But right now this sounds like more of an ambition than a plan. Labels are now comfortable with dropping DRM on a la carte per-track purchases, it would be straightforward for Nokia to do same on its a la carte store; Universal is even letting customers of the UK’s Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) ISP download an unlimited number of MP3s for a set monthly fee less than the cost of two albums. But these are download-to-own models; letting consumers listen as long as they have an active Nokia handset, Comes With Music is essentially a rental model, requiring tougher controls…

Nokia absolutely needs to ditch DRM from its Music Store if it wants to drive take-up. But right now Comes With Music songs can only be played on your Nokia handset or authorised PC. The economics of giving away an unlimited number of shareable songs for only a small handset markup is a difficult negotiation the manufacturer will need to work out with the labels – but it may be a necessary one if Nokia is also to profit from its big CWM investment.