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MP3 companies to launch anti-piracy coalition

UPDATED Is it just part of Liquid Audio's plan for world domination?

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Nearly 50 players in the MP3 digital music distribution business, including the influential MP3.com, have joined forces to form the Genuine Music Coalition (GMC), a partnership geared to promoting the MP3 format in the face of increased pressure from the recording industry's major labels. This is the second such body formed by MP3 companies -- last October saw the formation of the Diamond Multimedia-led MP3 Association (see Diamond Multimedia forms MP3 lobby body), though little has been heard from it since. But while the MP3 Association was a broad alliance of companies who came together to oppose the actions of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which was seeking to ban Diamond's Rio MP3 player, the GMC has more specific aims. According to Wired News, the Coalition will guarantee that music issued by its members is legitimate. The GMC will use watermarking technology developed by Liquid Audio, also due to be announced today, to brand legal copies and to prevent them from being bootlegged. The watermark will contain a unique serial number, copyright information and links to the copyright owners Web site(s). In effect this creates yet another downloadable music format, one that's halfway between 'pure' MP3 and Liquid Audio's MP3-based Liquid Tracks format. Liquid Tracks is MP3 with watermarking and e-commerce functionality layers bolted on. Only last week Web site Global Music Outlet launched its another digital music format based on AT&T's a2b technology (see earlier story). GMO's format is called MP4 in a deliberate attempt to make MP3 fans assume this is the latest incarnation of their chosen format -- it's not a proprietary technology. While the GMC's approach to MP3 addresses the mainstream music industry's main concerns with the technology, it's unlikely to win the big labels' wholehearted support now they have embarked on their own attempt to develop a universal piracy-proof digital music format, the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI). So for the music sites involved in GMC, it won't change the situation much. However, for Liquid Audio, it is a strategically shrewd move. Liquid Audio is a member of the SDMI and is pushing hard to have Liquid Tracks adopted as its chosen format. Setting up as the force behind the first real attempt to push MP3 as a legitimate (at least in the anti-piracy sense) format can't but help its case to the SDMI. It could also begin the process of ultimately bringing together MP3 and whatever format the SDMI selects, and viewing the language in Liquid Audio's announcement, it's clear the company sees it that way too. ®

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