Napster may be down for the count, but its millions of former members are happily swapping audio files elsewhere, according to an October 10 report from technology research firm Jupiter Media Metrix Inc.
In an effort to move their businesses into cyberspace, record labels and audio content distributors are still experimenting with their online formulas. Key to the new economic models for selling music over the Net is this question: Would you rather pay a monthly subscription fee to download music, or pay for music track by track? According to market researcher Gartner Group, sites that plan to sell music via the subscription model should seriously reconsider.
We've reported many times on the mass lawsuits filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against individuals or institutions that it alleges are illegally participating in peer-to-peer file-sharing activities, so we felt it only fair to report on a lawsuit where the trade group is being sued. Actually, the RIAA's attorneys are being sued by James and Angela Nelson, who were themselves the target of Motown v. Nelson, which alleged that the couple had allowed an employee of Ms. Nelson's home-run daycare center to access P2P websites from their computer.
SunnComm and others have been trying for years to find ways to prevent consumers from copying music discs. While their success in preventing digital copies has been mixed, lurking in the background was a problem many felt could never be solved.
Efforts to restrict the ways consumers use music they have purchased continue unabated. SunnComm (along with its sales and marketing arm MediaMax) has announced that its "newest patent-pending passive technology makes it even more difficult to bypass or 'hack' the copy protection structure contained on the MediaMax CDs."
The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster ride for CD copy-restriction developer SunnComm. The company was riding high in early September when it was announced that BMG and Arista had chosen its MediaMax CD-3 Technology to restrict how discs are used.
More than 70 producers, engineers, and representatives from consumer and professional equipment manufacturers, record companies, and recording studios recently came together in Europe to discuss new ways to promote and establish Super Audio CD. After a two-day conference in London, the attendees say they have agreed to establish the Super Audio Forum to foster a "supportive environment for the exchange of knowledge and marketing information, as well as providing a platform for industry-wide collaboration."
Long-simmering disputes about peer-to-peer file sharing, or P2P, will finally come to a boil sometime next year. On Friday, December 10, the US Supreme Court agreed to examine whether online services Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks, Inc. are liable for copyright infringement. Both services enable users to share music and other forms of copyrighted material, and both derive revenue from advertising.
One of the drawbacks of the new DualDiscs released by the major labels to date is a lack of consistency when it comes to portability—the ability to easily transfer the music to any device the listener prefers, such as an iPod, media server, PC, or MP3 player, or to make a back-up CD for car use.
The Swedes have found a new way to kill time on those long, cold Scandinavian winter nights. On February 7, Swedish Radio (SR) announced that it had begun multichannel test transmissions from the Sirius 2 satellite, utilizing DTS's Coherent Acoustics compression/ decompression algorithm. The tests are intended to run until the end of April 2003.
DVD-Audio and SACD are offering record companies a chance to re-release their back-catalogs of "classic" material once again. But the results will not necessarily resemble the CD re-releases of the last two decades. Artists, producers, and labels now have an opportunity to go beyond the standard "re-mastered for (insert new format here)" process when updating an older title for DVD-Audio or SACD. For better or worse, they can entirely remix the master tapes for multi-channel surround sound.