Jamba said it will be the first digital retailer to offer music unencumbered by digital rights management (DRM) software under a deal with record label EMI.

A joint venture between News Corp. and VeriSign Inc., Jamba said it will distribute an undisclosed number of DRM-free tunes to PCs and mobile phones through its Jamba and Jamster portals in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The company said the agreement is "a critical first step" toward making its entire library of more than 1.5 million songs DRM-free.

EMI last year became the first major label to drop DRM software through a pact with Apple Inc.’s iTunes, and rival labels have begun experimenting with DRM-free music in recent months. Many analysts believe anti-piracy software has slowed the mobile music industry, preventing consumers from taking their music with them when they switch handsets or carriers.

"As the first major music company to make all of our digital downloads available for sale without DRM, EMI’s objective is to deliver more music to more people with the flexibility and ease of use they want," said Ian Whitfield, EMI Music’s director of digital business development. "With Jamba now offering an even larger catalogue of EMI’s downloads to consumers, we can continue to drive the digital market further forward."

Jamba declined to disclose when the DRM-free tunes would be available or how much they will cost.

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