SDMI Director Chiariglione Calls it Quits

In a move that some cynics are calling "the beginning of the end" for the Secure Digital Music Initiative, the group's director has abruptly resigned. Leonard Chiariglione, who has headed the cross-industry anti-piracy organization since its inception more than two years ago, made the announcement Wednesday, January 24 at the first SDMI meeting of 2001.

Formed after the music industry was blindsided by the rise of the MP3 file-sharing phenomenon, the SDMI has pushed hard for the development of watermarking technologies for high-resolution digital audio by establishing a research and development program that invited the contributions of member companies from the software and hardware branches of the computer industry, consumer electronics manufacturers, record labels, and recording studios. The SDMI has accomplished little, despite many meetings, several carefully planned listening tests by audiophiles and expert listeners, and the invited participation of hackers—who succeeded in dismantling every technology the organization has approved.

Although unable to find a way to control the distribution of digital music, SDMI did manage to delay the rollout of DVD-Audio, a move that some observers fear may ultimately doom the format. There are hundreds of Super Audio CD titles now available, but few in DVD-A.

Chiariglione, who is also the force behind the Moving Picture Experts Group, who sponsored the development of the MP3 standard, is said to be frustrated with SDMI's lack of progress and wants to move on to other challenges, including new responsibilities at CSELT, the corporate research center of the Telecom Italia Group. "The work SDMI has done to explore issues, provoke debates, and develop content protection and management alternatives in the Internet music arena has already helped guide those working on books and video," Chiariglione said in a prepared statement. He will continue in his role at SDMI until the organization finds a new leader.