MP3 getting antipiracy makeover

The venerable MP3 music format, the technology most widely associated with unrestricted file swapping, is getting a makeover aimed at blocking unauthorized copying.

Thomson and Fraunhofer, the companies that license and own the patents behind the MP3 digital music technology, are in the midst of creating a new digital rights management add-on for the popular format, a Thomson executive said Tuesday. The move is aimed at pushing more deeply into the world of authorized music distribution through services such as Apple Computer's iTunes or the new Napster. All those new services sell music wrapped in digital locks--most in incompatible proprietary technologies by companies such as Apple, Microsoft or RealNetworks--while MP3 songs today are typically distributed free of copy controls.

"Eventually, digital distribution will be a significant mass market," said Rocky Caldwell, Thomson's director of technology marketing. "We think it will be served well by (digital rights management) that is based on standards. No one else seems to be proposing that." The move is recognition of a dawning new era in digital music, in which pay-per-song services are beginning to gain ground on the anarchic file-swapping networks and in which CDs themselves may ultimately be overtaken by digital downloads.

News source: C|Net News.com

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