It seems that Sony and Universal have decided to take the plunge and offer cheap music downloads; which are allowed to be burned to CD or otherwise reproduced for use by the purchaser. Projected prices are US$0.99 for a single and US$9.99 for an album. Could be a good deal; although I'd be curious to know if they plan to have "b sides" with those 99c singles - like most people, I often buy a single for the remixes. But at least the two companies are willing to try going with the flow instead of trying to hold back the tide.
There is a catch, however - they are planning to use a format other than mp3, which will mean a lot of consumer education and yet more fucking plugins; plus the files will be watermarked. The idea is that they will be able to identify the original purchaser when a song gets pirated, even if you've burnt it to a cd. No idea how they plan to do that, but they're going to try.
Update: there's further coverage on the sydney morning herald, which features some classic quotes:
...music analyst Phil Trip said the industry had a history of prosecuting backyard operators while allowing the professionals to go free. "The IFPI has a habit of spouting out statistics that make Peter Pan and Wendy look like the pirates," he said. "They see kids selling home-made compilations in the schoolyard like they are in the heroin trade."