MP3 to get DRM in last ditch attempt to regain relevancy

“The venerable MP3 music format, the technology most widely associated with unrestricted file swapping, is getting a makeover aimed at blocking unauthorised copying. Digital rights management (DRM) features will be added to the music format in a bid to block illegal copying,” ZDNet reports.

“Thomson and Fraunhofer, the companies that license and own the patents behind the MP3 digital music technology, are in the midst of creating a new digital rights management add-on for the popular format, a Thomson executive said on Tuesday,” ZDNet reports.

“The move is aimed at pushing more deeply into the world of authorised music distribution through services such as Apple Computer’s iTunes or the new Napster. All those new services sell music wrapped in digital locks — most in incompatible proprietary technologies by companies such as Apple, Microsoft or RealNetworks — while MP3 songs today are typically distributed free of copy controls,” ZDNet reports.

“‘Eventually, digital distribution will be a significant mass market,’ said Rocky Caldwell, Thomson’s director of technology marketing. ‘We think it will be served well by [digital rights management] that is based on standards. No one else seems to be proposing that,'” ZDNet reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Taking a pause to breathe between guffaws, we need to state that this is a wonderful idea! All kidding aside, MP3 with DRM is a magical combination: it sounds worse than AAC, results in larger file sizes, and will now be restricted with DRM. Fewer songs on your iPod that sound worse – sounds like a winner! Too little, way too late. Thomson and Fraunhofer must be very high, indeed.

And, yes, any Marketing 101 student could’ve told Apple they should have marketed “AAC” as “MP4” (which is what it is) and the so-called “format war” would be long since won.


  1. If I were into conspiracies, I would see the hands of either Apple or Microsoft in this. Kill off the ability of devices to play “classic” un-DRMed MP3, and consumers have to go one way or another with AAC/WMA.

    Or it could just be that these MP3 companies see their future revenues tanking……..

  2. I think MDN are underestimating the awareness of the MP3 ‘brand’. I see this as a good thing. If AAC and iTunes are the WMA killer, then maybe MP3 can hold it down while AAC gives it a good kicking to speed up the process.

  3. I see I am going to have to keep a computer on Mac OS 9 so that I can rip my music free of those digital handcuffs. I bought my music and I darn sure will mix, rip and burn it how I darn well please.

  4. I am not sure if I am understanding the implications of this correctly. If they institute this DRM will it automatically become part of all MP3? Wouldn’t people have to voluntarily decide whether to adopt this or not? And why WOULD anybody adopt this if they didn’t have to? I am sure I would still be able to rip CDs in a non-DRM MP3 if I so choose, right? Are these people trying to produce a format that they will be able to sell to yet another Music Download sight? Whew! Lots O Questions ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  5. Jack: I assume this means new CDs will all come with this DRM, but it won’t affect previously published CDs or MP3s we’ve already ripped from them.
    JadisOne: Are you indicating that OS9 provides a way around this new DRM for the MP3s?? If so, does this also work for the “Classic” environment on new Macs? Do tell!! ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  6. I can rip my cd’s in AAC without DRM. CD’s don’t come in mp3 format. I gather that this will simply allow mp3’s to be used by online music stores in place of wma, aac, etc. In theory, couldn’t the iTMS offer their songs in both aac and mp3 format then? Both would have a drm. This may allow Apple to play mp3’s with drm from other stores, if the licenses all worked out. Whether or not Apple would want that is a different (but related) subject.

  7. ..DRMing mp3 at this point seems pointless–the main reasons for moving away from mp3 in the 1st place was not because it couldn’t be protected w/ DRM, it was because AAC and WMA are better quality compression methods. Better quality output and easier on the bandwidth..imo, this is just like napster; someone just trying to take advantage of name recognition..

  8. This seems to me like a last ditch effort to keep MP3 in the new game, although I don’t think it’s going to work. In the last nine months we’ve learned that the DRM is more important than the format in terms of compatibility. That’s what it would come down to.

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