Test drive of new download technology in San Diego to combat spread of "internet piracy"...

The big five record companies – BMG, EMI, Sony, Warner Music and Universal – have teamed up with mega-corporation IBM to pioneer a new industry standard that will stop the MP3 revolution and allow them to keep control of the downloaded music market.

1000 internet users in San Diego, California, are taking part in test run for IBM‘s new technology – called Madison by its designers – which will allow people with modems to download CD quality music from record company web sites and burn the tracks onto CDs or mini-discs.

What it is designed to stop is the illegal copying and distribution of music, something that users of the rapidly spreading MP3 format are currently able to do.


Already the battleground for control of the download market is crowded, with Real Audio, Liquid Audio and American telecommunications giant AT&T trying to provide standards that will impress the major record companies.

Chuck D – an outspoken critic of the major labels – released a new Public Enemy track called ‘Swindler’s Lust’ on the new MP4 format (despite the name, MP4 is nothing to do with the Mpeg standard) which is like a stand-alone audio postcard that can link to the artist’s web site. But it also makes copying and distribution difficult. It also only works on Windows and not Mac or Linux. Chuck has since made the track available as an MP3.

Meanwhile, other independent labels have embraced MP3 as a promotional tool. Underworld released a one-day only MP3 download of a new track and Beggars Banquet have put a track by Dream City Filmclub on their web-site.

Can the record companies stop the spread of MP3 with the Madison Project? Is it like trying to stuff everything back into Pandora’s Box or will corporate cartel muscle prevail? Tell us what you think. Post a message on Angst!

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