MP3 has become wildly popular, and is considered the de facto standard for music downloading online. However, the recording industry has expressed concern about MP3--and in some cases taken legal action--because although the format itself is not illegal, it allows for the free, unauthorized distribution of copyright-protected material.
The Rio and similar devices let users download MP3 files and play them back on the go. The Rio is the subject of a pending lawsuit between the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Diamond over the protection of copyrights for recording artists.
Intertrust's digital rights management (DRM) software will be incorporated into Diamond's RioPort line of MP3 devices, the companies said. No date was given for the release of new DRM-protected Rios.
The software protects digital content against piracy throughout its lifecycle, Intertrust said. It uses a concept called "superdistribution" to allow consumers to pass music files on to friends, if allowed by the copyright holder, who can then purchase the software according to the provider's rules. Music providers can also enable offline purchasing of music, so that consumers can purchase content even if not connected to a server.
Diamond will still produce Rio players capable of storing and playing unprotected MP3 files. It will offer the Intertrust software to music publishers to protect their copyrights while at the same time entering the booming online music distribution market.
Earlier this week, Lucent Technologies, e.Digital, and Texas Instruments announced they are building a competitor to MP3 devices that uses a rival scheme offering better copyright protection, according to the companies.
Intertrust and Diamond cite forecasts that predict an exploding market for portable music players. Forrester Research predicts that more than 32 million portable music players will be sold by 2003.