A consortium of recording and electronics companies claimed this week that it has developed a specification for portable digital music players and software that will limit the illegal copying of digital music.
But it’s still unclear what technology will be used to enforce the copyrights of digitally distributed music or whether makers of playback devices will comply with the standards.
The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) said the spec calls for a phased approach. Initially, new devices will have to play music in all formats, including MP3.
In Phase 2 of the plan, consumers would “upgrade” those devices to activate a “screening technology” that won’t play pirated copies of newly released music. New music would be protected by a digital watermark.
According to SDMI, the specification was adopted by more than 100 companies from the music, consumer electronics and information technology industries. Details will be made public after the spec is ratified by SDMI’s governing body on July 7.
One partnership has already announced that next quarter it will test technology to create CDs that comply with the SDMI standard. Bertelsmann AG, the parent company of CD and video DVD recorder maker BMG Storage Media, based in Guetersloh, Germany, has partnered with InterTrust Technologies Corp. and Reciprocal Inc. to develop copyright management systems for digital media.
New CDs would need to work on existing players and let CD owners make copies for personal use, a right protected under the Home Recording Act of 1992.
The initiative was launched by the Recording Industry Association of America, which fears that MP3 has created widespread piracy. But critics charge that SDMI is the music industry’s attempt to maintain its grip on music distribution that has been undermined by the Internet and digital playback devices.