Apple is to start selling digital songs without copy protection software from iTunes along with over-the-air download songs for the iPhone.

Announcing the changes at the Macworld Expo trade show in San Francisco, Apple marketing exec Phil Schiller also detailed plans to roll out variable pricing on digital songs at iTunes with songs priced between USD $0.69 cents and $1.29.

Along with the new price points, all tracks on iTunes will be digital rights management or DRM-free by April.

DRM has proved a controversial topic with music fans and record labels alike.

It was designed to prevent fans from illegally sharing digital downloads on file-sharing services.

But it also prevented many fans from moving their own songs between devices and became increasingly unpopular.

Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs, publicly called on major record labels to drop DRM in February 2007.

In exchange, labels have been asking that iTunes agree to sell songs at variable prices. Currently, iTunes sells all individual songs at USD $0.99 cents.

Apple also announced details to allow iPhone 3G and iPod Touch Wifi users to buy songs while on the go, over the air through its popular App Store.

The changes mean a 30 per cent price rise for tracks from big name artists record labels – which will make more money for the record lables.

They will also mean consumers will be able to buy older and lesser known artists’ tracks for less.

The fact that iTunes downloads are in the AAC file format means there will still be restrictions on where they can be played despite being DRM-free.

In what was a fairly dry keynote, Schiller also announced the new 17" MacBook Pro – priced at USD $2,799 for a glossy screen, 2.66 GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, 320GB 5400 rpm hard drive, glass trackpad and backlit keyboard.

Expected to be Apple’s last Macworld keynote the company also showed off some software and hardware updates.

The expected update to the Mac mini never materialised – nor did Jobs, who is treating a "hormonal imbalance".

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