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MP3 Goes Legit
March 2, 2004
Thomas Mennecke
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The MP3 format, aka the Moving Picture Experts Group, audio layer 3, has been a part of the Internet since its conception 12 years ago. Over time, it has become the de facto standard of virtually all P2P and file-sharing networks.

Why has the MP3 format become the Internet standard? It offers a high rate of compression while keeping most of the sound quality intact. At 160 kbps, a common MP3 bitrate, the sound quality is difficult to discern from CD quality. Also, the MP3 format does not have any DRM (Digital Rights Management) or other forms of copy protection latched onto it. One is free to copy and distribute the file without any limitations (providing you steer clear of the RIAA.)

Being the de facto standard of the file-sharing world has not sit well with Thomson and Fraunhofer. Simply put, the enormous exchange of MP3 files on P2P and file-sharing networks yields nothing in the way of revenue for the group. While these companies do see royalty payments, compared to Apple iTunes’ AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) format and Napster’s WMA (Windows Media Audio) format, the group has fallen far behind in the industry sanctioned music distribution world.

The legitimate distribution arena is where the Apple and Microsoft are profiting off their proprietary and DRM enhanced audio files. Not only does DRM sound like music to the ears of the copyright industry, the formats allow for greater compression without degradation of quality. This attribute has been a selling point of the legitimate distribution industry, as the old-skool MP3 format has remained virtually unchanged since its introduction in the early 90's. Thomson and Fraunhofer did release MP3-Pro in 2002, however since the format lacks any kind of DRM enhancement, the project has fallen relatively flat.

Looking to take the group in a new direction, Thomson and Fraunhofer announced on Monday that a new iteration of the MP3 format is on the way. This time, the new MP3 format will be enriched with all the glories of Digital Rights Management. While this may be a financial step forward for Thomson & Fraunhofer, the group has a tremendous amount of catching up to do, not including reversing its reputation with the music industry, as “MP3” has become largely synonymous with piracy.

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Technology News :: Software

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