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IBM targets post-Napster music biz

Which it hopes will be just like the pre-Napster music biz

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IBM hopes to leverage Napster-induced paranoia to sell its EMMS digital music distribution system to the world's biggest recording companies.

According to Big Blue, it has tailored its software to support Napster's file sharing model. The idea is that MP3s are packaged to allow the copyright holders to specify rules that govern how many times the file can be sent to another user.

There's nothing new here - it's how other rights management system, such as Intertrust, have been working for some time.

Of course, what IBM doesn't point out is that such an approach effectively negates the whole point of Napster. After all, why grab files that only let you listen to the first 30 seconds of the tracks they contain?

In short, the scheme is designed to make Napster so useless, everyone goes back to the digital download model, and both the technology and music industries can work as if Napster had never happened. In other words, a return to a world where copyright is a packageable commodity.

As Scott Burnett, IBM's Global Media and Entertainment division's business development executive, told CNET: "If you assume that Napster will disappear in its current state, what's going to replace it? That's what we're talking about here."

The trouble is, like the atomic bomb, you can't un-invent technologies you don't like. Even if Napster does "disappear", the model it pioneered won't, and it's going to be very difficult to prevent music being copied and distributed without the controls IBM wants to let record companies add to their tracks.

Better then to develop systems that allow content owners to profit from the 'free' distribution of their material, through subscriptions or ancillary services. If it can work for Red Hat, it can work for EMI and co. ®

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