Puretracks Inc. on Tuesday said it is the first large online store in North America to offer music in the MP3 file format without anti-copying measures.

The company behind the Puretracks.com music store said it is immediately offering songs from artists such as The Barenaked Ladies, Broken Social Scene and Sarah McLachlan under a partnership deal with major independent labels.

The labels include Nettwerk Music Group of Vancouver, Arts & Crafts Productions of Toronto, the San Francisco, Calif.-based Independent Online Distribution Alliance (IODA) and Beggars Banquet Records of London, England.

The tracks, offered in the MP3 file format, do not contain any digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

DRM is a catch-all term for a broad range of technologies used by copyright owners to control how a piece of data, software or hardware can be used by others.

The measure is commonly used to restrict the ability to copy or transfer music or movie files such as those bought from sites like Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store or burned from a computer to a CD or DVD.

Puretracks is launching its MP3 offering with 50,000 songs, which it plans to expand with new additions every week. The songs are priced at 79 cents and up.

As a launch promotion, the company is giving people who register for its online newsletter a free MP3 download of the new Barenaked Ladies single Sound Of Voice starting on Feb. 27.

"So-called DRM can be used to support unique business models, like subscription services, that deliver value to music fans. But equally, there is also the burning issue of device interoperability — one that can no longer be ignored," Alistair Mitchell, Puretracks' president and CEO, said in a written statement.

"There is a time and place for DRM and there is also a time and place for selling music without it."

Mitchell's comments echo those of Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs, who focused attention on the problems that DRM can create when he called on the music recording industry to abolish DRM in an open letter on Apple's website Feb. 6.

Recording giant EMI has reportedly been in talks with online music services to offer DRM-free music.

Even Microsoft founder Bill Gates has said DRM is too complex for most people.

He reportedly told bloggers at a December 2006 meeting at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash., that they should simply rip their music tracks from CDs if they wanted to transfer songs between devices or computers.