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Music companies plug in at Net gathering

An array of products and services for the online music industry debuts at Jupiter Media Metrix's Plug-In Forum in New York.

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     Protecting your digital music
    David Goodman, CEO, LockStream
    Digital music companies Monday unveiled new products aimed at the burgeoning market for commercial online music services at a major industry conference.

    With Napster reined in by the courts, legal online music services are coming closer to reality, but significant obstacles still remain, including the ongoing threat of online piracy. At Jupiter's Plug-In Forum in New York, several companies showcased wares that attempt to solve such problems with secure software for sharing and playing digital music files.

    Among the products and services unveiled Monday:

    • Online music software company Liquid Audio launched a new digital audio player, Liquid Player Six. The software enables music fans to stream, download, purchase and play digital music as well as rip and burn audio CDs from one application. Some of the new features include simultaneous playback and resumable downloads; access to album art, lyrics and other music data; support for audio formats such as MP3, WAV and audio CDs; new language formats, including French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish; and an automated search tool. The player and the Liquid Player 5.1 for Macintosh are available for free download at Liquid Audio's Web site.

    • Liquid Audio also previewed its new digital music subscription service technology, which provides record labels, consumer-device companies and online retailers the ability to offer music fans a subscription-based payment system. Liquid Audio's subscription technology gives retailers the option of choosing among content streaming, downloading or a combination of both services. The technology features individual songs and full album downloads, CD-quality audio, and copyright-compliant file-sharing.

    • Peer-to-peer provider CenterSpan Communications announced C-star, a peer-to-peer network that provides the secure distribution of digital media, including music and video. CenterSpan said C-star offers digital rights management and supports various business models, including purchase and rental subscription services and video on demand. The C-star peer-to-peer network has a central server that provides a direct link between individual computers to ensure file-sharing. C-star's digital file security and copyright protection is provided by Microsoft's Windows Media DRM technology.

    • As previously reported, Intertrust Technologies announced a new digital rights management system to deliver secure music and videos on a variety of devices including PCs, set-top boxes, video recorders, mobile devices and consumer electronics such as game stations and portable devices. InterTrust said companies such as Adobe Systems, Blockbuster, Enron, Nokia and 16 portable device manufacturers have already adopted the technology.

    • LockStream, a software developer, launched a new music player that aims to portray the image and personality of artists. The Seattle-based company, which is backed by companies such as AOL Time Warner and Artisan Entertainment, said the player morphs into a customized design that enables artists to extend their brand by offering media components such as news, bios, lyrics, e-cards and photo galleries. The player is designed to provide artists and record labels a way to sell or advertise related material. Radiohead's player, for instance, offers fans an image of a crying Minotaur that matches the look of the band's new album. The player, which can be accessed at Hollywoodandvine.com or VH1.com, offers an interactive photo slide show along with Radiohead tunes. The Radiohead player can also be placed onto a pocket PC.

    • MusicMatch, which makes programs for creating and organizing digital music, said it is demonstrating its digital music subscription service at the Plug-In conference. The Radio MX service, which was launched in May, offers listeners customizable radio and programmed stations. The San Diego-based company said the streaming-music service will offer music fans customized playlists from their favorite artists. The service eliminates advertising and interruptions, according to MusicMatch.

    • Portal Software announced an online music subscription service for media and entertainment companies, content portals and service providers. The technology, according to Portal Software, supports multiple payment types, tracks usage activity, and compiles and computes payments. The technology offers different pricing plans and media formats.