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DRM-free Warner tunes: too good to be true?

[intro]Another of ‘The Big Four’ goes DRM-free, this time on Lala.com. But is everything as it seems?[/intro] Little known digital download site, La

Little known digital download site, Lala.com, seems to have succeeded where iTunes couldn’t and convinced Warner Music to go DRM-free.

The US-based website has moved from CD swapping into digital downloads, starting with what appears to be a pretty groundbreaking deal with one of ‘The Big Four’ record companies. I say ‘appears’ because after a little digging, things are not quite as they seem.

Alongside web-based full-length streaming of all Warner tracks, the new site allows DRM-free downloads of Warner artists direct to your iPod, bypassing your hard drive. That makes it the only non-iTunes download site with major label content on the whole of the internet that works with Apple’s all-conquering jukebox. Seems pretty major doesn’t it?

It’s obviously designed to take advantage of the iPod’s one-way transfer system. iTunes doesn’t allow tracks to be moved from an iPod onto a hard drive, only the other way, so these nice new DRM-free tunes from Lala would theoretically be safe on your ‘Pod, untouchable and unshareable by those dirty, stinking pirates.

Only that’s not quite true, is it? It doesn’t take a MENSA member to find a third party app that’ll override the iPods locks. Not that I’d condone it of course and neither does Lala – like Apple’s iTunes Plus tracks, the content will be watermarked with your account info.

So, DRM-free tracks that are technically locked into your iPod. Suddenly it all seems a little less groundbreaking.