Amazon announced today that they will begin selling DRM-free MP3 music downloads from over 12,000 labels, the largest being EMI. EMI, of course, was the first major record label to sell music without DRM via Apple's iTunes store earlier this month.

"Our MP3-only strategy means all the music that customers buy on Amazon is always DRM-free and plays on any device," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO in a press release. "We're excited to have EMI joining us in this effort and look forward to offering our customers MP3s from amazing artists like Coldplay, Norah Jones and Joss Stone."

Here's a quick time line of the slow death of Digital Rights Management for downloadable music over the past couple of years:

  • Jul 19 2006 - Yahoo! and Sony BMG team up to sell DRM-free downloads of Jessica Simpson's single "A Public Affair." (Yahoo! has already been pushing for an end to DRM for awhile.)
  • Sep 19 2006 - Yahoo! continues its DRM-free experiment by offering for download Jesse McCartney's new album in unencumbered MP3 format via a deal with Hollywood Records.
  • Oct 04 2006 - Amie Street, a music store that sells DRM-free downloads using community-driving prices, launches.
  • Dec 06 2006 - Yahoo! offers DRM-free tracks from a couple of artists: Reliant K and Norah Jones (the first of EMI's DRM-free downloads?).
  • Dec 13 2006 - Despite not having contracts with any major labels, eMusic continues to show that DRM-free music resonates with consumers, announcing its 100 millionth download. eMusic is the second-largest digital music store next to Apple's iTunes.
  • Dec 14 2006 - Bill Gates tells a group of bloggers that DRM has "huge problems" and "causes too much pain for legitimate buyers."
  • Dec 18 2006 - The RIAA, on behalf of six major labels, including EMI, sue Russian website AllOfMP3.com for $1.65 trillion. The site doesn't comply, and remains very popular (a top 2,500 site on Alexa today).
  • Feb 07 2007 - Steve Jobs posts his thoughts on music on the Apple Hot News page, in which he calls for the music industry to abolish DRM saying, "DRMs haven‚Äôt worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy."
  • Feb 28 2007 - Universal Music France tests DRM-free music with the album "L'Olympia" by Emilie Simon, a French musician.
  • Mar 06 2007 - Amie.st signs the Barenaked Ladies, its first major artist. The tracks are listened to more than 14,000 times in the first 24 hours.
  • Mar 13 2007 - The European Union's Commissioner for Consumer Protection slams DRM (specifically Apple's): "Something must change."
  • Apr 02 2007 - Apple announces the sale of DRM free songs from the entire EMI catalog starting in May. The cost of no DRM is an extra US$0.30. Apple hopes that by year's end 50% of the music it sells is sans-DRM.
  • May 01 2007 - Digg users revolt and take over the site because of a DRM encryption key (yes, it had to do with HD DVDs and not music, but it is still relevant).
  • May 05 2007 - HBO proposes that consumers really just have a problem with the name "Digital Rights Management," and suggests a change to the friendlier "Digital Consumer Enablement." This really has nothing to do with the rest of this time line, but it's amusing in an absurdly Orwellian way.
  • May 16 2007 - Amazon signs 12,000 labels, including EMI, to sell DRM-free downloads.

Amazon's announcement is another huge step forward for consumers who clearly want DRM-free downloads. But with only one major record lable firmly behind the idea so far, we are still a long way from a completely DRM-free future. What are your thoughts on Amazon's announcement?