Sony BMG will become the last of the big four majors to drop copy protection software on music downloads, also known as digital rights management (DRM).
The company said on Monday it will launch a gift card service on January 15 called Platinum MusicPass that will feature digital albums from its artists in the MP3 format. The format does not use DRM protection.
Fans will be able to buy the digital album cards in stores and download full-length albums from a MusicPass Web site after they type in an identifying number. The cards will be available at U.S. retail outlets such as Best Buy and Target.
One of the biggest issues for music companies last year was whether dropping DRM would help drive digital sales.
In February, Steve Jobs called on music companies to stop requiring retailers to use DRM for services like his company's iTunes Music Store. Jobs said dropping DRM would help boost sales.
Digital music buyers have been frustrated by the limitations imposed by DRM. Music companies had required DRM to prevent users from making multiple copies or sharing songs with friends for free.
EMI became the first major to drop DRM in April and was later followed by Universal Music Group. Last month, Warner Music Group said it would start selling its music in MP3 format through Amazon.com.