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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Doing the rights thing
Limp Bizkit graffiti
The Limp Bizkit summer tour is free thanks to Napster
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Record companies and internet portals are trying to wean people off pirated MP3 files by giving more to consumers prepared to pay for secure downloads.

Alternatives to MP3, the popular technology used to compress audio, are quickly being updated to ensure people pay for the music they get via the internet.

The pace of MP3 development may be slowed now that the original developers of the system are demanding payment to use it.

But MP3s are now so popular that record companies may never regain the initiative on digital downloads.

Boxing clever

This week, AOL signed a deal with Intertrust that will lets subscribers pay for music they download but not pirate it.

AOL will start putting the Intertrust protection system on the CDs people use to sign up to its service.

There were one billion downloads last year but music sales are way up, so how is Napster hurting the music industry?

Courtney Love
Music downloaded using the Intertrust system is put into a secure "Digibox" and can only be played by the person who paid for it.

AOL is keen to establish a secure system for music or video downloaded because of its impending merger with TimeWarner that owns record labels, TV stations and film studios.

Next month, Universal Music, which promotes artists such as Elton John and Marilyn Manson, is planning to start its own digital download service using the Intertrust system.

Sony has already made more than 50 singles available for download. EMI is expected to follow in July.

The Digibox works with the music industry's Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), which is being pushed as the standard for pirate-proof pop.

More than music

Intertrust says it has tried to make the system as easy to use as MP3s.

"When you buy on an on-going basis it only takes one click because you'll already have your account set up," said Ian West, vice chairman of Intertrust Europe.

To entice consumers to the secure system, music companies and bands are planning to give fans access to exclusive material they don't get with MP3s.

Alongside the secure tracks will go electronic artwork, lyric sheets as well as special offers on gigs and merchandise.

Anthony Thornton, editor of said the record companies might have some success by adopting this approach. "Music is not just about the sounds, it's about the packaging, the lifestyle and the T-shirt and everything else around it."

Development of MP3 may slow as the Fraunhofer Institute starts to demand licences from people making money using the format.

The Institute wants 1% of the money made from online sales of MP3 files and wants to be paid for every hardware and software player sold and/or distributed.

While there are other MP3 coder/decoders available the Fraunhofer version is one of the most popular.

Copycat services

Fraunhofer's demand means that some MP3 players have disappeared from the web. Others are evaluating replacements for MP3 such as the Vorbis open source software.

Ricky Martin
Soon you could be downloading Ricky Martin
But the record companies may be moving too late. Mr Thornton says so many people are using MP3s and services such as Napster, as well as the copycat services such imesh and gnutella, that it may prove unstoppable.

The PC Expo in New York this week saw the unveiling of several new MP3 players. Some can store hundreds of MP3s.

The summer tour of Indie rockers Limp Bizkit is being sponsored by Napster and all tickets for the series of gigs are being given away free.

Fred Durst, lead singer of Limp Bizkit, said it was happy to have Napster sponsoring the band because MP3s were only helping the band sell more records and reach more people.

And this week, Courtney Love made available on the web MP3 versions of rare and unheard songs from Hole, the rock band for which she used to be lead singer.

Speaking about Napster and MP3s earlier this month she said: "There were one billion downloads last year but music sales are way up, so how is Napster hurting the music industry?"

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24 Jan 00 | Business
Record companies sue
24 Jun 00 | Americas
Music giants sue 'pirates'
09 Jun 00 | Business settles suit
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