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Recording industry launches project to develop sound ID
(IDG) -- The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on Thursday announced a project to develop a worldwide, standardized system for identifying digital music files so that the owner of a recording's copyright can easily track its use and collect royalties.
The project will set the requirements for a new identification system for music and other sound recordings that's fully compatible with existing identification systems, said Cary Sherman, senior executive vice president and general counsel at the Washington-based RIAA. To manage the project, the organization has selected Rightscom Ltd., a U.K.-based consulting firm that has designed and developed identification systems in the past.
Sherman likened the system to the bar codes on merchandise bought in stores, but instead of appearing in print on the package, the code would be embedded in the digital content. It would include any limitations on the use of the music, such as an expiration in a set number of days. The code would present a range of opportunities for offering music over the Internet in different ways, Sherman said. For instance, a user might want to buy one-time access to a database of 100 songs that can be played during a party.
"The idea would be that you would have encoded in the header of the file the information that rights holders would need to track the royalty payments for those uses," Sherman said. "You just need to have a standardized way of doing that."
The project will seek to involve other music-industry players, including distributors and retailers, Sherman said. He also said that the design of the new system would build on existing practices as much as possible and would incorporate features that support different sales, licensing and tracking activities that the industry feels are vital to the future of online music commerce.
The RIAA claims a standardized identification system for sound recordings would accelerate the digital delivery of music via the Internet. The association, meanwhile, remains embroiled in a copyright-infringement lawsuit against Napster Inc., the company that allows Internet users to find and download digital music from one another's PCs (see "Judge's ruling could shut down Napster," link below).
A U.S. federal appeals court in California last week heard arguments in the case in which the RIAA says Napster's file-trading service should be shut down because it's violating copyright law. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company has argued that the file-sharing technology it uses is legal under the "fair-use" provisions of U.S. copyright law. It's expected to take months before the court rules on whether Napster's service will have to shut down.
The standard that the RIAA hopes to develop would identify files being exchanged through file-sharing technologies, even free ones such as Napster, Sherman said. "This is going to be a better system," Sherman said.
The RIAA hopes the standardized system will be finished by the middle of next year.
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