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Intel, Panasonic take aim at online piracy

The chipmaker and the electronics giant are set to release new software intended to prevent online music piracy from going mobile.

    Intel and Panasonic said they will release new software tomorrow intended to prevent online music piracy from going mobile.

    The two companies said they have developed a three-part plan for protecting copyright material on personal computers and, more significantly, when it is copied for use in portable music players.

    Both Intel and Panasonic--the U.S. brand of Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial--are participants in industry groups that have been developing anti-piracy tools, including the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI). Efforts to create an audio copy-protection standard have so far produced preliminary specifications for portable devices. The group is working to develop a second group of standards, which will cover new devices expected to improve audio.

    SDMI has increasingly come under criticism for falling behind schedule, leading to parallel initiatives. Some record companies, for example, aren't waiting for SDMI and are moving ahead with their own copy-protection plans. Intel and Panasonic said their copy-protection scheme would allow equipment makers to more than meet current SDMI specifications

    In addition to SDMI, Intel and Panasonic are members of the 4C Entity, which has developed standards for secure portable music devices in cooperation with IBM and Toshiba. The new Intel-Panasonic protection scheme can be used with music management programs--or "jukebox" software--that allow people to "rip" copies of CDs and organize tracks on their PCs. The new software tools would offer security for portable hardware supporting 4C Entity standards, such as portable Internet music players that use Secure Disk memory cards.

    Although Intel and Matsushita are part of SDMI, they expect the new software to exceed SDMI requirements.

    "A lot of people have a kind of negative association with SDMI, so when we say it exceeds SDMI requirements, it doesn't mean that it restricts users in any sort of fashion, but it means that it is especially powerful in regards to performance," said Julian Pye, an engineer at Matsushita's entertainment and media liaison office.