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Rhapsody launches MP3 music download service

NEW YORK - Digital music seller Rhapsody has launched an MP3 download service on its site to rival Apple's iTunes, which dominates the music download market.

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Users will be able to download songs in MP3 format and play them on any music device, including an iPod, because Rhapsody's new service does not use digital rights management software, which controls how widely music can be distributed.

Apple's iTunes store still uses DRM for a portion of its music. However, sites such as Amazon's MP3 service, which launched last September, do not.

Until now, Rhapsody, which is jointly owned by Real Networks and Viacom's MTV Networks, has been a music rental service where users paid a subscription, starting at $12.99 (£6.50) a month, that gave them unlimited song streaming.

Users were previously not able to play music on Apple's iPod, which Neil Smith, Rhapsody vice president, said limited Rhapsody's reach.

Smith said: "We're no longer competing with the iPod. We're embracing it."

Listeners will also be able to preview an entire song before they purchase it on Rhapsody, which is not possible on iTunes or Amazon.

The music will be priced at $0.99 (50p) a song and $9.99 for most albums, which is roughly the same as its competitors.

However, Rhapsody's new download service is currently available only in the US.

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