The Toronto Star
Thursday, February 18, 1999
MP3 news moving fast and furious
by Robert Wright,
As Gerry Blackwell mentioned in his recent excellent roundup on the new music paradigm spawned by MP3, events are unfolding quickly. Here's a roundup of recent ones:
- A new generation of portable MP3 players is set to hit the streets in the coming months that feature digital voice recording, AM/FM radio, personal organizer features, and even Karaoke. Prices range from $120 to $150 U.S. Visit http://www.MP3.com for details.
- Some 49 leading record labels, MP3 vendors, artists, and producers have joined forces to form the Genuine Music Coalition to fight online piracy. The group plans to watermark all legally encoded music sold or distributed on the Net. The marked files will be compatible with existing MP3 players, including Diamond's Rio.
Although impressed by the development, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the MP3 movement's greatest opponent, is still pursuing its own Secure Digital Music Initiative for selling downloadable music on the Internet.
- Until now, the only way to play back MP3s was from a computer or an external device like the Rio. But two recent developments aim to take MP3 to a much wider audience: Internet music label GoodNoise is working with hardware company Adaptec to find a way to let existing CD players play MP3 files recorded on CDs. Since MP3s re-encode CD audio tracks at 1/10th their original size, a CD could hold some 750 minutes of MP3 music.
Also California-based ESS Technology has released a chipset that will enable WebTV-style set-top boxes to play MP3 files.
- When Diamond Multimedia was fighting legal challenges to its Rio MP3 player, it argued the device was no threat to copyright because it merely played back rather than recorded MP3 material. In its defence it pointed to the fact that the Rio is a one-way device - i.e. it can only receive data from a computer, but can't transmit it. So needless to say the company wasn't happy when a couple of hackers recently posted code to the Net that allows the Rio to send files back to a PC. Sometimes what goes around comes around.
- Diamond is also trying to take its involvement in MP3 to a new level by launching a new Internet music portal called RioPort.com. The site appears to put it in direct competition with MP3.com, the erstwhile ground zero for everything MP3. If MP3 becomes a viable model for marketing and distribution of copyrighted material, this could prove to be a lucrative move for Diamond.
- Looking to cash in on the investment fever that greets Internet upstarts, Z Company, the parent of MP3.com, has raised $11 million in venture capital and is planning an initial public offering. Also, predictably, Z Company will change its name to MP3.com.
- Online portal Lycos introduced a search engine designed to find MP3 files on the Internet. The engine helps the MP3 collector, but also gives the anti-MP3 forces an advantage in their fight against piracy by helping them to root out sites that are giving away the files. On the three or four occasions I've used the search engine, I was able to find numerous sites that offer MP3 files from the likes of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, but unable to download the files once I got to the site.
Incidentally, here's proof the MP3 movement is for real. According to
a resource tool for Web masters, MP3 has become the No. 2 search term entered into search engines behind, you guessed it, "sex".
Sony on the Mac
Another interesting development occurred at MacWorld when computer innovator Connectix showed off a software product that lets Macophiles run PlayStation console games on their Macintosh computers. Needless to say, Japanese electronics giant Sony was not amused, and launched a lawsuit a few week's later to block the $50 U.S. Virtual Game Station. A day later, Connectix began shipping the product.
Copyright © 1999 by The Toronto Star.
All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission.