Universal Music, the world's largest music label, has announced that it is to trial the sale of digital songs without the customary copy-protection technology.
The decision by the company, which is owned by entertainment group Vivendi, marks a departure from The Music industry's traditional use of a system known as digital rights management (DRM) to prevent tracks in a digital format from being copied.
Most major recording studios insist that music vendors use DRM technology to combat online piracy. The decision by Universal means that music lovers purchasing tracks by artists signed to the label over the internet will now be able to do so without being subject to the anti-piracy software that restricts their use.
Universal, whose signed artists include Amy Winehouse, Bon Jovi and the Black Eyed Peas, said that for a trial period consumers would be able to buy songs in an MP3 format which can be freely copied and played on portable music players and computers.
"The experiment will run from August to January and analyse such factors as consumer demand, price sensitivity and piracy in regards to the availability of open MP3s," said Universal in a statement.
The company revealed that internet retailers including Google, Wal-Mart and Amazon.com were participating in the trial, although Apple's online music store iTunes is not taking part.
Universal said that it had excluded the software giant from the trial so that it could serve as a control group for sales comparisons.