Five companies have joined forces to push the MP3 Internet based digital music format and work with record companies to educate consumers about music piracy.
The MP3 Association will consist of Diamond Multimedia - whose Rio MP3 player has just fought of an injunction form the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) - together with Goodnoise, MP3.com, Musicmatch and Xing Technology. All the companies involved build hardware or software around MP3.
The MP3 Association?s mandate is to promote MP3 technology as the standard for downloading music from the Internet. In addition, it will pool its members' legal resources to put more muscle behind its lobbying efforts.
It also hopes it will be able to bring the recording industry around to its way of thinking. A big job in itself - record labels are convinced that MP3 will throw music piracy into an uncontrollable spiral as the hardware gets cheaper and global policing of the Internet becomes more difficult.
?We are trying to get legislators to understand that MP3 is a legitimate digital business model for the future,? commented Hassan Miah, president and chief executive of Xing Technology.
MP3 is a data compression standard that enables consumers to compress digital music into a file one-tenth its original size, yet still almost CD quality. It is now the most popular format for saving and exchanging music files on the Internet.
Music files can be played back on the PC, a stereo connected to a PC or a Walkman-like MP3 portable player like Diamond?s Rio.
Some 10 million US consumers have the software required to download MP3 files now and the number is growing daily, according to a recent report from US research consultancy Forrester.
The RIAA is worried that cheap MP3 hardware will increase piracy by making it easier for people to find and store illicit recordings on their PC. There is already a big craze amongst American teenagers to download unauthorised albums from the Internet instead of buying them.
The MP3 Association stresses that it does not support music piracy and that devices like the Rio are meant as players, not as a means of downloading illegal tracks from the Internet. It said that it hopes to work with the RIAA to educate consumers and is planning promotional activities in colleges to explain Internet music distribution.
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