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SDMI drafts digital music plans

Portable Device Spec. goes beta -- final version due 7 July

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The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) has announced its provisional specification for portable digital music players. As anticipated, the spec. calls for a two-stage implementation process: the first offering basic SDMI compliance, followed by an upgrade to screen out pirated files as and when the SDMI figures out which screening technology to use. The SDMI did not say when that will happen. Still, this approach does signal a softening of the organisation's earlier stance that it had to completely eliminate all music files not SDMI-compliant, a move threatened to render existing legitimate formats, including audio CDs, unplayable on SDMI-compliant equipment. The SDMI's new line will allow compliant players to use all existing music files, both legal and illegal. When the second stage of the process commences, users will have to upgrade their players to allow them to play fully SDMI-compliant music files. The screening technology will only block illegal copies of fully SDMI-compliant files -- existing dodgy versions and unprotected files will be permitted to play. Of course, the tone of the SDMI announcement suggests that users of SDMI-compliant devices will be able to do so freely, through a simple download, as and when they buy a fully SDMI-compliant file. That said, it doesn't say this explicitly, and it's not beyond the wit of the music industry to levy a small upgrade fee. For device vendors and music suppliers, the new spec. provides the basic architecture they need to handle the transfer of files to players and manage the use of those files. The spec. itself is currently only a draft -- the final version will be published in the second week of July. ®

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