Rio no longer home to pirates as world waits for June 30

Diamond Multimedia has adopted a technology for protecting music copyrights on its Rio player, a device attacked by the record industry as a tool for music pirates.

As the world awaits the June 30 decision of the Secure Digital Music Initiative, Diamond is making moves to pacify the record labels. This summer, the SDMI will make its recommendations for the delivery of digital music world-wide. That decision is expected to be definitive due to the large number of key industry figures round the table, including the top five record labels and Diamond itself.

And to keep MP3 in the picture, against 'well respected' rivals such as MSAudio 4 from Microsoft and EPAC from Lucent, Diamond announced a 'shareware music' scheme in conjunction with Intertrust Technologies. The technology builds a count-down timer into MP3 music files, effectively limiting the number of times an MP3 song can be played once it is downloaded from the internet.

After the timer expires, the file will require the user to register it, effectively paying for the track, or lose it. Costs are expected to be something around 30 pence although it is not known whether record labels would take this opportunity to standardise prices.

The Rio is smaller than an audio cassette and stores as much as 60 minutes of MP3 audio transferred to the device from a personal computer. The Rio PMP300 has already sold over 200,000 units world-wide and the music industry has been trying to contain the MP3 craze, because much of the material being shared on the internet is being given away, violating the artists' copyrights. On the heels of its launch, Diamond was famously sued by the Recording Industry of America Association and despite a win feels obliged to keep everyone sweet until the SDMI's decision this summer.

Future versions will include the Intertrust technology, and Diamond says any Rio bought now can be easily upgraded across the internet to play whatever standard is voted in by the SDMI. The front-runners right now are MP3 and Microsoft's MS Audio 4, although Diamond spokesman Neil McGuinness said the record labels were "wary" of the latter after they'd "seen what Microsoft did with the PC."

"Even if MP3 went out," he said, "it wouldn't die overnight. Lots of people like MP3 and would want to stay with it so we'd have to make sure it was as secure as possible."

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