Apple's iTunes Store started selling thousands of songs without copy protection Wednesday, marking the trendsetting company's latest coup...

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple’s iTunes Store started selling thousands of songs without copy protection Wednesday, marking the trendsetting company’s latest coup and a model for what analysts say will likely become a pattern for online music sales.

Launching initially with songs from music company EMI Group, iTunes Plus features tracks that are free of digital rights management (DRM) technology — copy-protection software that limits where songs or movies can be played and distributed.

Apple also said Wednesday it will soon introduce the ability for Apple TV users to access the popular YouTube site on their televisions through its video-streaming set-top-box.

The unrestricted content from iTunes Plus means some songs purchased from iTunes will work for the first time directly on portable players other than Apple’s iPod, including Microsoft’s Zune.

The inaugural batch of iTunes Plus songs includes music from Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, Norah Jones, Frank Sinatra, Pink Floyd and more than a dozen of Paul McCartney’s classic albums.

The DRM-free tracks feature a higher sound quality and cost $1.29 apiece — 30 cents more than the usual 99-cent price of other, copy-protected songs at the market-leading online music store.

If available, users could upgrade existing purchases to DRM-free versions for 30 cents a song or $3 for most albums, Apple said.

EMI and Apple announced their partnership last month to deliver the industry’s first offering of DRM-free songs, sharing a vision of what both companies say their consumers want: flexibility and CD-quality audio.

Other smaller online music vendors, such as, already offer songs without DRM, but the selections have been limited to mostly content from independent labels.

Apple’s iTunes Store will continue to offer songs in the same copy-protected format at 99 cents per download and encoded at 128 kilobits per second. The iTunes Plus versions are encoded at 256 kbps, which Apple says makes the audio quality on par with original recordings.

In the middle of next month, users of the Apple TV device will be able to wirelessly stream videos directly from YouTube. The feature will help address what some observers have said was a shortcoming of Apple TV.

The slim, book-size device streams movies and songs stored in the user’s iTunes personal library but can’t directly access Internet-based videos.

With the impending Apple TV feature, which will be available as a free software update, members of YouTube will be able to log on to their YouTube accounts right from their televisions.

Apple also said it will begin offering today a beefier model of Apple TV, quadrupling its maximum storage capacity with a 160-gigabyte hard drive. Its price will be $399.