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Diamond Multimedia forms MP3 lobby body

Group wants to make friends and influence people in the music biz. Good luck -- you'll need it

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Diamond Multimedia and four other digital audio specialists have joined forces to oppose the music industry's stance on the MP3 digital audio standard. Operating under as the MP3 Association, Diamond, plus online music publishers GoodNoise, MP3.com and MusicMatch, and hardware vendor Xing Technologies, will promote the MPEG-based MP3 as the standard for downloadable digital music. They will also pool their legal resources to fight challenges from the recording industry, such as the battle Diamond is currently waging with the Recording Industry Association of America (see Diamond wins right to ship Rio music player). The MP3 Association claims it was being developed "weeks" before the Diamond/RIAA case emerged. The MP3 Association will also lobby the US government. "The goal is to get with the right influence in Washington to make sure they understand alternative business models for delivering digital audio," said Hassan Miah, Xing's president and CEO. "We are trying to get legislators to understand that MP3 is a legitimate digital business model of the future." The Association's goal won't be achieved easily. What makes MP3 attractive to the Association's members is exactly what makes the format so popular with music pirates and what the music industry hates about it: it's free. "The music industry is shit-scared of the Internet," a Sony Music executive recently told The Register, and it's not hard to see why. The prospect of bypassing all the 'value-add' -- CD production, decent artwork, lyric-filled sleeves -- plus the businesses' colossal margins worries them something rotten. The industry has always had the jitters over Internet-based music technologies, but at least the likes of Liquid Audio, Dolby's AC3 and Real to some extent are tied into systems for making royalty payments -- the industry does like to hide its own hunger for profit behind claims that it's protecting artists' revenue. The point is, these formats are all nicely proprietary -- the industry can form alliances with their developers in the knowledge that they're not going to make it easy for shareware authors to knock up cheap encoders and decoders in the way that MP3, being an open standard, allows them to. Sure, Liquid Audio is to all intents and purposes a Microsoft thing, and the music business really doesn't want to end up the latest Bill Gates plaything, but that doesn't matter too much these days because there are now alternatives. MP3 is another matter, as the RIAA's legal moves against Diamond proved. While sites like MP3.com, GoodNoise and MusicMatch pay their artists royalties, there are still millions of illegal MP3 versions of copyright tracks available on the Net ready to be downloaded to Rio, ready because MP3 makes illegal reproduction and, more important, mass distribution so easy. The MP3 Association likes MP3 because, of course, it means it doesn't have to pay huge royalties to Dolby. Diamond may try and work some kind of arse-covering deal with its MP3 Association chums whereby Rio will only play files downloaded and, more importantly, paid for through MP3.com and co. But while the music business might be keen on the idea, perhaps suggesting it in return for removing the legal threat (it's an easy way to modify Rio to make it compliant with US copyright law but without making it appear that Diamond has caved in to the industry), it does kind of defeat the idea of having a open standard-based player, at least until legal copies become rather more widespread. ® Click for more stories Click for story index

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