The NY Times reports on the heated negotiations that led to the announcement at Macworld that Apple would be dropping Digital Rights Management (DRM) from all iTunes music. In exchange, the music labels were given their long-requested variable pricing model. In addition, Apple was able to secure over-the-air iTunes music downloads for the first time.

Apple, however, was said to have a strong upper hand in the negotiations according to music executives:

Ever since the iPhone could run applications people have been really excited about the possibility of streaming XM-Sirius on the go.

After a lot of buzz, it appears the uSirius StarPlayr will finally be submitted to the app store this weekend. Then Apple will decide when to release the player to eager consumers.

The player, developed by nicemac LLC has been getting positive reviews from beta testers.

The bad news is that streaming services will no longer be free. Despite a promise from Sirius-XM that prices would be capped for 3 years, as of March 11, 2009, streaming will be an additional US $2.99 a month. Additional radio charges will be US $2.00 extra monthly. Costs of the base service will stay the same. and subscribers can lock in their current rates by agreeing to a 3 year contract extension. People rushing to do that may help the beleaguered merged companies in the short run. On the other hand, a lot of customers may not be anxious to throw a lot of money at a service that may not survive 3 years.

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The U.S. Copyright Royalty Board decided today to keep rates the same for digital music stores, kneecapping Apple’s threat to shut down the iTunes Store rather than operate at a loss.

The three-member board kept the royalty rate at 9.1 cents, and mandated a 24-cent rate for ringtones. The board has never before established mechanical rates for digital files.

“We’re pleased with the CRB’s decision to keep royalty rates stable,” said an unnamed Apple spokesman.

[Editor's Note: I received the following email today and thought I'd share for anyone interested in the SF area. If anyone is interested in going, let me know. As a Pandora subscriber, I can RSVP for as many people as I like, so you can be sure to get in]


Hi, Tim here,

I wanted to invite you down to the Apple Store in San Francisco on Thursday, September 18th for a get together to talk about Pandora on the iPhone — including the newest updates to the application. I’ll share a little about the history of Pandora, how the Music Genome Project works and answer any questions you might have about the service and the company. We’ll have the engineering team that built it there as well, just in case things get technical :) Should be a fun evening.

According to Ars Technica, Apple has sent out invitations to the media confirming the much anticipated September 9th iPod event. The invitation features an iPod screen with the words “Let’s Rock” on it. According to the invite, the event will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (located in San Fransico) at 10 am PT next Tuesday.

There is reason to believe that Apple will only refresh the iPods, instead of introducing new models to the MacBook line — this is consistent with the invite.

iPhone and iPod touch users will soon be able to purchase and download ‘interactive albums’ from Apple’s iTunes store that will include an App Store application loaded with extras, according to a new report.

MusicWeek claims that Snow Patrol, an alternative rock band from northern Ireland, will become the first artist to offer one of the applications for download alongside the release of its fifth studio album next month titled Hundred Million Suns.

Extra content available though the app will include exclusive artwork, behind-the-scenes images, and lyrics, according to the report.

Don’t get too excited for all that unfiltered, uncensored satellite radio content you think you might be getting if XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio merge….it hasn’t happened yet.

It turns out that key congressional Democrats are urging the Federal Communications Commission to impose limits on the merger designed to “protect” consumers. Most of their points have to do with pricing and equipment, and thankfully not content regulation…yet.

Okay, so ya mighta heard that EMI is suing MP3tunes.

But I bet ya didn’t know why?

Turns that the music label believes that consumers aren’t allowed to store their music files online, and feels that MP3tunes is violating copyright law by providing a backup service.

Yes, despite the courts telling EMI last March it couldn’t demand that MP3tunes turn over all the music stored by customers on its servers, it is suing ‘em anyways.

So today MP3tunes’ CEO Michael Robertson sent out an email to all users of his online music backup and place-shifting service asking them to help publicize EMI’s lawsuit.

Microsoft just announced that it will no longer supply authorization keys for songs purchased from the defunct MSN Music service.

So all yooz PlaysForSure users that purchased music through them, those tunes will only play on your registered computers (up to 5)…forever! This maneuver also locks the registered PC into whatever OS it’s running, so any major OS update or switch would zap all your music into oblivion.

“If you attempt to transfer your songs to additional computers after August 31, 2008, those songs will not successfully play,” said Microsoft in a press release.

Mac users who have wanted to share audio, video, and pictures with their Xbox 360s have had to depend on Connect360 from Nullriver Software. Now, however, there’s a new option: Rivet from Cynical Peak Software. Frankly, it does about the same thing as Connect360, running in your menu bar and allowing you to share media to your Xbox 360, though it does add a few convenient features.

According to the developer, Rivet allows you to “supply multiple search paths for your media” and display your folder media folder hierarchies properly (instead of in a long, flat list). So if you’ve been frustrated by those limitations, Rivet is worth a look. In my brief testing it worked just about as well as Connect360.

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