Hip hop mogul Eminem this week became the first artist to take a legal stand against record labels over royalties for tracks sold through digital download services like Apple's iTunes, an increasing source of tension between the two sides now that a significant percent of music sales are being made online.
In what could be a significant victory for its online music store, Apple is believed to have landed agreements not only to remove copy protection from the music of all major labels but to also allow direct music downloads to iPhones over cellular networks.
Apple is believed to be on the verge of an end-of-year push that would start by finally offering unprotected iTunes Store music from all major labels and would switch a special post-holiday campaign giving away music and videos to Europeans.
Apple is in talks with three of the "big four" record labels about offering music tracks through iTunes that would be made available in MP3 AAC format without copy protection measures, a move that could further distance the digital download service from its rivals.
Apple Inc. and video content provider NBC Universal are working to bury the hatchet, according to reports, which suggest that it's only a matter of time before the network's catalog of television programming returns to the digital shelves of the iTunes Store.
As expected, Apple on Tuesday announced iTunes Movie Rentals featuring movies from all the major movie studios including 20th Century Fox, The Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Lionsgate and New Line Cinema.
Record labels are remaining on the offensive when it comes to battling iPod maker Apple Inc. for revenue share in the digital music business, with word spreading that Sony BMG will soon join the ranks of other major labels in offering its catalog through some online retailers stripped of copy protection measures.
Adding to the media frenzy surrounding possible iTunes movie rentals, a Hollywood magazine alleges that Apple's rentals will only last for short stretches of time and will use a flexible price structure.