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Is it really legal to have MP3s?

Perhaps one of the biggest questions surrounding MP3s is the question of legality. Depending on whom you talk to, MP3s are both legal and illegal

On one hand, there are those who believe the Fair Use Act lets people do whatever they want with the music they own. Meaning, if someone wants to rip his entire CD collection into MP3 format, he has the right to do so.

However, people associated with the recording industry are quick to point out that when a person buys a CD, he is merely paying for the format it's being stored on. In effect, you're paying for the CD and not the music. Therefore, you have no right to do with it as you please. You do, however, have the right to use the CD to play Frisbee with your dog.

The industry also adds that the trading of MP3s couldn't possibly be more illegal, and it would be correct. Trading music without the consent of the copyright owner has been deemed illegal because it violates copyright law. If you don't own the music to begin with, you have no right to posses it or distribute it to others.

The lawsuits filed by the RIAA against Napster and MP3.com will help determine whether or not people own the music they buy or merely own the storage format it's printed on. Until then, it's not exactly clear here who's wrong and who's right.

What's going to happen to MPX?

It's obvious that the recording industry is worried about the potential effect MP3s could have on its bottom line, and is taking steps to ensure that record companies continue to make their enormous profits.

SDMI (the Secure Digital Music Initiative) has already arrived, but no one is really sure how it's going to affect MP3s, or if it will even work. An interesting side note is that the chairman of the SDMI is also the chairman of MPEG.

On the technological end, it's obvious that MPX will continue to evolve and produce smaller and smaller files with no quality degradation. Digital music will continue to spread, regardless of what happens between the RIAA and the major MP3 players.

MP3 is here

The MPEG Audio Layer III format has a long history, and it will have an even longer future. Whether it will change to meet the needs of the industry, or if the industry will change to meet the needs of the format, remains to be seen. One thing is certain: We are all witnessing a possible shift in a huge industry. The situation can only get more interesting.

Take me back to MP3: You can't stop the music ...

Take me back to MPEG Audio Layer 3, defined

Take me back to The Napster controversy

What do you think? Tell the Mailroom. And read what others have said.

Take me to the MP3 Special