SDMI will fail - EMusic

They haven't even come up with the standards yet but one leading digital music guru is already predicting the death of the SDMI format.

The SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative) was created by major players from the record industry to come up with a copyright-enabled alternative to MP3. An announcement on standards is imminent but according to Bob Kohn, chairman of digital download company EMusic, formerly GoodNoise, whatever the SDMI comes up with will be dead in the water by this time next year. MP3, according to him, is unstoppable. "MP3 is the operating system of digital downloads," he said. "In a year's time the SDMI standard will suffer the same demise as Divx. The standards war is over today," he said. The record industry, through bodies like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the SDMI has always insisted it is not the enemy of MP3: a dubious claim given that the SDMI initially planned all SDMI-compliant software and hardware to refuse unencoded MP3 files. According to Jupiter analyst Lucas Graves, the popularity of MP3 has forced an industry rethink. "At first the policy of the SDMI was how best to limit the spread of MP3 with other formats that are more controllable," he said. "The SDMI initially could be characterised as wanting to eradicate MP3 but it has changed its policy to one of accommodation. They have understood they have to live with MP3," he continued. One industry insider admitted to ZDNet News on Wednesday that the long-term gameplan is still to "marginalise" MP3. Graves is not surprised by the insider's comments. "If the recording labels could snap their fingers and make digital distribution disappear I'm sure they would," he said. "There is still a lot of fear about what it will do to their role. MP3 has caused a sea-change in the record industry and almost everyone is in trepidation." Rob Wells, Internet manager at music label BMG denied the record industry wanted to destroy MP3. "We are not trying to marginalise it, we are just trying to set standards," he said. He is confident the standards decided by the SDMI will not be killed by MP3. "It is not going to be a format so much as a set of regulations. It is not a question of straitjacketing anyone and saying they have to deliver music in one particular format. It will be very difficult to work outside the standards." He believes it is unlicensed MP3 we should be sounding the death-knell for. "MP3 sites that carry unlicensed music will be closed down," he threatened. "Consumers will have a choice -- they can choose endorsed music or go down the piracy route. My gut feeling is that 90 percent of consumers would rather pay a sum of money for music that is endorsed by the artists." Are you one of the 90 percent of consumers who will pay for your music? Tell the Mailroom

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