In the near future, music fans may be able to store only a limited number of copies of a
given song on their computers.
Under guidelines released Tuesday (July 13) for digital music devices such as the Rio
MP3 player, that restriction and others were set forth in a blueprint created over the past
four months by more than 100 music and technology companies operating as a coalition
called the Secure Digital Music Initiative.
The limit on the number of copies a computer may hold is designed to prevent a single
listener from becoming a bottomless well of music, according to Jack Lacy, who chaired
the SDMI as the group developed the standard.
"It's really there to suggest to people who are trying to use content in a way that says, 'I'm
going to rip [create] one copy and give everybody that wants to plug into my PC a copy,'
that this is not the way to be doing this," Lacy said Tuesday during a telephone press
The specification was created behind closed doors by the SDMI in hopes that secure
devices will encourage major record labels to release music for sale by download.
Although the default number of copies allowed per computer is four, the owner of the
music such as a record label or individual artist can set a different
number of copies to be allowed.
Essentially, the copies one makes are treated as actual physical items, rather than digital
files. If a music fan transfers, say, three copies of Limp Bizkit's "Nookie" (
HREF="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-music/Limp_Bizkit/Nookie.ram">RealAudio excerpt) off the computer and onto his or her Rio-type players, the system
allows more to be created from the original CD. But that total cannot exceed the number
allowed by the content owner.
SDMI was formed in December in response to the overwhelming grassroots support for
the MP3 format, which includes no security measures to prevent unauthorized copying.
Thousands of songs in MP3 format currently are circulating on the Internet without the
permission of their copyright owners.
Last month, the coalition announced that future devices compliant with its rules will still
accept current MP3s and MP3s created from any CDs currently in existence. A 35-page
document released Tuesday details precise rules for moving music between computers
and portable players.
Several electronics firms currently are developing digital music players, many of which
are smaller than a Walkman and contain no moving parts. RCA is expected to debut its
Lyra player in September, while Creative Technology's Nomad player will hit some
SDMI's stated goal is to have devices incorporating its standards on store shelves for the
holiday season, but some manufactures say that goal may be overly optimistic.
Creative's vice president Hock Leow said most retailers require companies to make
commitments for Christmas-season products by August for September shipment.
"Maybe we'll have online sales [of SDMI-compliant devices] by Dec. 23 for Christmas,"